The Hope Hypothesis at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture, Closing November 15

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From left to right: Mary E. Hodges, Soraya Broukhim , Greg Brostrom, and William Ragsdale in a scene from Voyage Theater Company's production of "The Hope Hypothesis," by Cat Miller at the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture. Photo Beowulf Sheenan.

From left to right: Mary E. Hodges, Soraya Broukhim , Greg Brostrom, and William Ragsdale in a scene from Voyage Theater Company’s production of “The Hope Hypothesis,” by Cat Miller at the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture. Photo Beowulf Sheenan.

The Hope Hypothesis
The Sheen Center for Thought & Culture
October 29, 2019

Out-kafka-ing Kafka, this brisk, engaging play is a testimony to the ghastly bureaucratic nightmare surrounding the American immigration scenario. Syrian-born lawyer-to-be Amena has everything in order to become a U.S. citizen but, starting with a visit to the immigration office, things go badly.

The script, by Cat Miller who also directs, is at times downright funny but with a dark undertone that strikes just the right note. Ms. Miller received a Drama League fall fellowship and was a first stage residency and finalist for the Edes Foundation Prize for emerging artists. Her direction is spot-on with great pacing that provides bursts of dialogue that often erupt in unexpected action. Credit also goes to Casting Director, Stephanie Klapper, as the actors not only handle their roles beautifully but also look just right for their parts, especially William Ragsdale and Greg Brostrom as two FBI agents and Mary E. Hodges who plays Carol, a lawyer from the ACLU. Soroya Broukhim as Amena, Wesley Zurick as the Teller, Charlie O’Rourke as Brendan and Connor Carew as the Supervisor are all equally compelling and hit the right notes impeccably during the necessary small talk that runs along the top of the drama.

Even the set, credited to Zoe Hurwitz, is faithful to the spirit of the enterprise with anonymity that shades into menace. It’s hard to think that a simple room with blinds at the windows and a basic table can be so intimidating but it is. Lighting by Bailey L. Rosa, costumes by Katja Andreev and sound design/original music via M. Florian Staab complete the feel of unseen but very present jeopardy.

According to Cat Miller, “the play was inspired by a New York Times piece on the surprisingly comprehensive bureaucracy in the Islamic State—and by the experiences of a friend who was nearly deported in 2016 despite being married to an American.” She has turned this story into a darkly funny look at today’s climate of suspicion and fear and told it with panache.bureacracybureacracy

The play is produced by the Voyage Theater Company (VTC) that presents new and unheralded plays and playwrights from around the world. VTC produced the world premiere of Intermission by Daniel Libman in 2014 at Theatre Row, the same year they launched the PARTS UNKNOWN Play Reading Series—free and open to the public—featuring new plays from different parts of the globe. Additional productions include the New York premieres of Sun by Adrienne Kennedy and Unveiled by Rohina Malik; August Strindberg’s The Pelican; Unveiled at the South African National Arts Festival and Johannesburg 969 Festival; The Mecca Tales by Rohina Malik; and Tentacles by Tessa Flannery, at the 2018 Frigid NY Festival. 

Is that intake of breath a prelude to a laugh or a gasp?

About the author

Mari S. Gold

Mari S. Gold is a freelance writer who contributes to many magazines and websites. Her blog, But I Digress… , on cultural events, travel, food  and other topics is at www.marigoldonline.net. She lives in New York City.

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