The Who & The What is the third production I’ve seen at LCT3 – Lincoln Center’s “initiative to produce the work of new artists and to engage new audiences.” I was as impressed with this play as I was with the earlier two – they’re 3-for-3. This latest show is a winning combination of four equally talented actors, a mix of drama with some comedic touches, and the show ran just the right length. Additionally, the Claire Tow Theater is only seven rows, so there’s not a bad seat in the house.
The story revolves around Afzal, a successful Pakistani businessman, and his two daughters. Mahwish, the younger daughter, is more obedient and has been dating an “appropriate” Muslim boy since she was young. Zarina, the older, Harvard-educated sister, questions her faith, her father, and her sister’s choices. Into their lives comes Eli, a Christian convert to Islam who has been tricked by Afzal on a dating site into thinking that Zarina is looking for a date. Eli does begin to date Zarina and the characters’ secrets are revealed.
Central to the plot is the novel that Zarina is writing regarding the Prophet Muhammad. As we’ve seen with such novels as The Satanic Verses, Zarina’s fictionalized account of such a major religious figure stirs up a great deal of conflict for all parties. We learn that the relationship between Mahwish and the “right” boy has its dark side, we learn about the sacrifice the strong-willed Zarina made when her father demanded it, and we learn that the gentle Eli is made of steel when it comes to the woman he loves. The show asks questions about religion, about relationships, and about what happens when the two become intertwined.
If you’re looking for an intimate theater experience with smart writing and acting, look at The Who & The What specifically, and look into LCT3 in general. AFW
Clair Tow Theater, Lincoln Center, 150 W 65th
All tickets $20