2016 Philadelphia Fringe Festival Review: ‘Silken Veils’

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“When the rose is gone and the garden faded
you will no longer hear the nightingale’s song.
The Beloved is all; the lover just a veil… “ (Rumi, Teachings of Rumi)

These lines and many others by the Persian poet, Rumi, are spoken in Silken Veils, created by Leila Ghaznavi. Silken Veils is essentially a love story. It presents Darya’s and Ahmad’s romance as well as that of Darya’s parents. This multimedia piece is performed by Leila and Pantea Productions in partnership with Indy Convergence at Studio X in South Philadelphia. The short play is performed without intermission and includes, music, dance, puppets, acting and poetry. It was directed by Candace Cihocki.

Photo by Nick Shoob.

Photo by Nick Shoob.

There are many elements that are interesting and satisfying in the play. The different media blend together seamlessly. The acting is quite good by Robert Negron and Leila Ghaznavi as Ahmad/Xerxes and Darya. Darya’s story in theory is touching, but in my opinion she was not a sympathetic character in the way she was portrayed. She was angry and hysterical for most of the play and was often yelling or talking very loud. There were some shifts in her dynamics and mood in the flashbacks, and perhaps more time needs to be taken in those transitions so that her feelings of confusion and nostalgia are depicted more prominently. As it was, her awakening at the end is more like an epiphany. I really did not feel much for her and I thought I should have.

The recitation of the poetry was excellent and the use of the scrim and puppets were very effective. The parents mostly performed behind the scrim in shadow and this conveyed Darya’s memories quite well. Using the puppets to represent her family in the past was evocative and clearly told the story. I liked the dance that the mother puppet did with the veil too. The costumes worn were street clothes with the exception of the wedding dresses. These were used as props and symbols of Darya’s discontent and her family reunion. There were some projections on the scrim that referenced Darya’s past. These were shown at opportune times.

The set was very basic, a door, which separated the bride and groom, and several suitcases. Although the set functioned, and the door was an inexpensive and convincing prop, this is a play that would be improved with a more sophisticated backdrop and lighting design. I could imagine it being even more dreamy, colorful and aesthetically pleasing with more advanced technology.

In addition, the politics and repercussions of the Iranian Revolution are important to this story. There is no didactic “talk” about it. Instead, the creative use of shadows and vocal dynamics powerfully portrayed Khomeini’s impact. As the action progresses, it becomes evident that the Iranian Revolution was the catalyst for Darya’s sadness and her problems in her relationship.

Overall, Silken Veils, is a provocative and innovative work–a love story amidst a culture and revolution that is rarely seen on the American stage. It deserves to be noticed and attended.

Running Time: Approximately 65 minutes, with no intermission.

Silken Veils plays from September 14-18, 2016 at Studio X – 1340 South 13th Street, in Philadelphia, PA. For tickets, call the box office at (215) 413-1318, or purchase them online.

RATING: FOUR-STARS18.gif

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