Review “Damascus” (Strawdog Theatre): What a Trip!

Strawdog Theatre presents the world premiere of DAMASCUS.
Playwright Bennett Fisher takes us on a thrilling journey of perception. Lloyd (played by Sam Hubbard) begs Hassan (played by Terence Sims) to take him to Chicago to make his connecting flight to California. Lloyd’s mother is sick. Hassan reluctantly agrees with the promise of hefty compensation. Fisher’s trip from Minnesota to O’Hare isn’t a straight shot. He zig-zags all over the road. Fisher unpacks plenty of baggage for us to sort through… white privilege, Muslim radicalism, working poor, misguided vigilante, blackmail, drugs, Sam Cooke. Within his unfolding drama, Fisher impressively weaves in unexpected humor. Sims uttering, ‘don’t you wipe your hand on my seat’ provides a momentary laugh in the tense situation.
Fisher’s script is primarily dialogue between two men in a car. That could be a problem in less capable hands but Director Cody Estle masterfully drives this van like a pro. Estle effectively navigates us through all the emotions: restlessness, desperation, annoyance, anger, resignation and even compassion. Using Set Designer Jeff Kmiec’s pivoting van, Estle spins the vehicle and us to see the story from different angles. He paces it with uncomfortable realness.
The cast is rock solid. Hubbard and Sims’ interactions are genuine. Their facial expressions transfixing. The intensity in their eyes tethers us to their escalating implosions. Despite the stressful ride, each endears with moments of pure vulnerability. And nod out to versatile Eleni Pappageorge for playing three supporting characters, one of which channeled her inner Marge Gunderson.
DAMASCUS is a powerful journey! It’s a must see. We all need to grapple with the timely relevance of this devastating trip that is our reality.
Running Time: Ninety-five minutes with no intermission
At Strawdog Theatre, 1802 W. Berenice
Written by Bennett Fisher
Directed by Cody Estle
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 4pm
Thru June 23rd
Buy Tickets at www.strawdog.org.

Production photos by Clark Bender

For more information and reviews on Chicago theatre, visit Theater in Chicago.

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