Though Iranian cinema has been all the rage among cinephiles for as long as the Khomeini regime has been cracking down on its filmmakers, the country’s vibrant ex-pat theater practitioners across the U.S. have gone virtually unnoticed. Enter the Brick Theater in Williamsburg to remedy the discrepancy. From now until March 26th you can catch a vast array of productions that reflect the diversity of Persian culture itself: political protests and surreal comedies, live actors and shadow puppets, dance and video (and yes, even a couple of films) are all represented at this year’s Iranian Theater Festival.
Something Something Über Alles, the show I saw penned by Helman-Hammet Grant Award-winner Assurbanipal Babilla, is actually a revival (the original production having been directed by theater critic David Cote), and it’s notable for both its thrilling oddness (including lines like “I could refuse to be eaten but then I don’t want to deny myself the experience,” followed by “Some people go down in history…I shall go down the toilet”) and lack of foreignness. On the surface, this one-man play involving Hitler’s doppelganger and a couple of gay pastry chefs who enlist him to lead their Fuhrer-fanatical cult seems gratingly gimmicky. But Babilla’s script, a spiraling story that spins itself around you and weaves you in like a spider to its web, is a Freudian dream work of epic proportions. The playwright’s vision is downright Lynchian.
Interestingly, director Michael Yawney’s barebones staging gives performer Matthew Glass (who looks nothing like Hitler and smartly doesn’t attempt to) only a chair to work with as he relates the story of Hitler’s double, and reminded me of another production I recently saw at St. Ann’s Warehouse, The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church. But whereas Daniel Kitson was the seamless star of his very personal tall tale, Matthew Glass is more an affected afterthought, an acting vehicle for the real star of the show: Babilla’s writing. Indeed, the play practically begs for sweeping visuals to take the burden off of Glass. If the already terrific Something Something Über Alles were a multimedia production it would be Obie Obie über alles as well.
The Iranian Theater Festival runs through March 26 at the Brick, 575 Metropolitan Avenue, between Union Avenue and Lorimer Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. For more information, click here.