So often relied upon for understanding. What happens, though, when one doesn't understand the words?
What happens when those words mean one thing to one person and something completely different to another?
The Hour of Feeling, now open at Actors Theatre, explores words. Explores language. Explores what happens when we try—and don’t try—to understand each other.
And it explores those things in a very deep way.
Meet Adham (Hadi Tabbal), the frenetic, cocky, and not-so-endearing protagonist, and Abir (Rasha Zamamiri), the woman he quickly falls for and then marries, despite the misgivings of his strong and determined mother (Judith Delgado).
Instead of taking a honeymoon, Abir and Adham leave their small town in Palestine and head to London, where Adham has been invited to speak at a university on Wordsworth, the poet he has studied extensively.
Abir, who does not speak English, immediately feels out of place, and her husband, trying to fit in with his long-distance colleagues, does not make any effort to put her at ease.
As the play progresses, Adham tries to reconcile life as a blossoming professional with life as a new husband, and Amir desperately searches for help in determining how to meld her old traditions and dreams to her new life.
At times, the academic discussions of Wordsworth and the tumultuous world events (the play takes place in the hours leading up to the historic Six Day War between Israel and several Arab countries) left me feeling a bit like Abir; hearing the words but not understanding the conversation.
Thankfully, playwright Mona Mansour and director Mark Wing-Davy infuse the heady scenes with humor, most often deftly delivered by William Connell (Theo).
While the music choices were appropriate and contributed to the mood of the play, they were played at an unpleasantly loud level, making one wonder if the volume was an artistic choice. If so, designer Matt Callahan succeeded in helping the audience identify with the characters in their uncomfortable struggle.
Lighting designer Brian J. Lilienthal followed suit, finding creative ways to enhance the production while simultaneously contributing to the unnerving atmosphere by positioning lights directly into the audience.
The unique set design (Michael B. Raiford) held dual purpose, effectively incorporating multi-media features (designed by Phillip Allgeier); though at one point during the performance, the subtitles lagged behind the actors, causing a bit of confusion for the audience. The stellar scene shifts were fluid and often happened without the audience noticing as one scene merged into the next.
While the subject matter may be serious, the acting is solid. The Hour of Feeling provides much fodder for discussion, and more than an hour’s worth of thought.
The Hour of Feeling is part of the 36th Humana Festival of New American Plays, and runs at various times and days through April 1. Tickets are available online or by calling the Actors Theatre box office at 502-584-1205.
Image: Courtesy Actors Theatre