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Third Country

a Comedy/Drama
by Suehyla El-Attar

COMPANY : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
ID# 4511

SHOWING : September 20, 2013 - October 25, 2013



Nura, a refugee, clings to her soccer ball like a lifeline as she meets Sasha, a resettlement worker who is her guide to a strange new home in a small Southern town. But the welcome is mixed in this community reeling from a flood of newcomers—all refugees from around the world. A community meeting divides the town, and a soccer field becomes the battleground for its future.

Will longtime residents and these eager new Americans learn to work together to find peace?

Inspired by real life events in nearby Clarkston, Georgia, playwright Suehyla El-Attar (Horizon’s The Perfect Prayer) uses her signature wit and optimism to look at a community in transition, and what happens when we must redefine and share our homes. A poignant new play from our own changing backyard.

Director Lisa Adler
Nura Hussein Cynthia D. Barker
Ensemble Sam Higgins-King
Mary-Margaret Roberts Tess Malis Kincaid
Asad An-Naim Eric J. Little
Sasha Hensmann Marcie Millard
Charlie Heade Bill Murphey
Malcolm Barts Tom Thon
Ensemble Andra Ward
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


Good for You
by playgoer
Monday, October 28, 2013
"Third Country" by Suehyla El-Attar tells a fictionalized tale of Clarkston in the mid-2000’s, when an influx of refugees led to turmoil in local politics. It makes the unsentimental decision to show the refugees’ reactions to America, without any "trauma porn" of the description of their tribulations in their home countries.

Not all fictional elements work. It seems a bit of a stretch having video game gunfight sound effects from a next-door apartment repeatedly triggering PTSD in a refugee. It’s also a bit of a stretch when an American aid worker works overtime rather than returning to her apartment to sleep, because of the emotional repercussions of a divorce. It’s the repetition of these elements that’s the problem, since it schematizes behavior rather than letting it inform and deepen the characters.

The set by Isabel & Moriah Curley-Clay cleverly uses pull-out and turn-around sections to portray various settings in the fictional town of Sidington -- an apartment, a grocery store, offices, ball fields. Some of the set decoration is a little off, though, with scenic painting of brick walls with an obvious seam where one panel pulls out and with a bulletin board filled with overlapped notices in a non-realistic way. Scene changes occur efficiently, although often with maddeningly repetitive music from sound designer Thom Jenkins.

Costumes, by Sydney Roberts, range from Somali dress to informal and business-style Western dress. It’s a nice mixture, with the head scarves for character Nura particularly attractive. The play intends to show a small cross-section of the fictional town, and the costumes reflect that.

Performances are uniformly good, even from the ensemble characters played by Sam Higgins-King and Andra Ward, who aren’t even given the courtesy of a program bio. Standouts are Marcie Millard, as a relocation helper, and Cynthia D. Barker, as a Somali refugee. They’re the main characters in the show, and they’re the ones we care about most. Tom Thon plays the "bad," intolerant South (the town’s mayor), William S. Murphey plays the "good," tolerant South (a local grocer whose business has survived thanks to ethnic shoppers), and Tess Malis Kincaid plays the indifferent South (a refugee coordinator who feels her duties have clear-cut boundaries). Eric J. Little plays a Sudanese soccer coach with little respect for female abilities. Nura eventually wins him over.

Director Lisa Adler ends each scene with her trademark slow dissolves, in which an actor’s reactions are allowed to marinate for a moment as the lights dim. It’s usually effective, but sometimes comes across here as a way to provide a satisfying scene ending that the script doesn’t always provide. Playwright Suehyla El-Attar has created two new revisions since the play opened, so some of the clunkiness (especially in the act one ending) will probably be gone in any future production.

The show has a question-and-answer section after the final (metaphorical) curtain, billed as a "third act." I found this the most informative part of the performance, with Ms. El-Attar proving to be an utter delight as a speaker. It also emphasizes the "good for you" tenor of the play, updating the action of the play with information on how things have improved in Clarkston since 2006, and how state support has decreased for refugees.

"Third Country" distills real-life experiences into a fictional story. It’s not always deftly done, but it makes a lot of significant points in an even-handed manner. There is no black-and-white here: everyone’s viewpoint has a rational underpinning. Walking the tightrope of impartiality lessens the emotional impact of the piece, but impartiality was the point. I might have preferred a more theatrical story in which there was more emotional engagement for a specific viewpoint, but Suehyla El-Attar’s script does just what it intended. No one should feel alienated or marginalized in their views after viewing this play, no matter what their views were before seeing it. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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