*** Recommended *** I’m still not sure how I feel about Goodman Theatre’s production of Layalina. On the one hand, the cast was superb and I loved the set! On the other hand, although I could figure out how the first act led into second, there were just too many unanswered questions. Layal is a complete mystery. What was she doing during the missing 17 years? Did she resent being forced to raise her siblings? How/why was she also raising Amin. Was he her cousin or her husband’s brother? 3 Spotlights
By the way, the roles of Young Layal and Marwa, usually played by Becca Khalil, were beautifully played by understudy, Angel Alzeidan, at my performance.
The story opens on a wedding celebration in Baghdad. Young Layal (Alziedan), the daughter of the house, has just married Samir (Waseem Alzer). Apparently, his parents couldn’t be there because they’re in America, but they will meet soon since the young couple is going to join them soon.
Layal’s father, Yasur (Mattico David), announces that he’s bought the newly-weds a house in Skokie, Illinois, USA, so they won’t have to burden Samir’s parents. Layal’s mother, Karima (Atra Asdou), asks her to take her two younger siblings, Yousif and Marwa (who are, apparently, 5 or 6 years old) with her to America and raise them as her own.
Yasur and Karima are positive they won’t be allowed to leave Iraq, so they are determined to make sure their children are safe. Yasur tells Layal’s older brother, Young Mazin (Ali Louis Bourzgui), who thinks he might be gay but would never admit it, that he’s to marry and move to Australia with his bride’s family. After the party ends, Mazin and Samir go out for the evening, but in the rioting, Samir is shot.
One of the best parts of Layalina was watching the stage crew transform the set from a home in Baghdad to a more modern home in Skokie.
In Act II, set 17 years later in Skokie, an older Layal (Asdou) apparently has a clothing design business on Etsy. She’s been nominated for a design contest. Her two siblings, Yousif (Bourzgui) and Marwa (Alziedan), and Amin (Alzer), Samir’s younger brother, are all grown up – and apparently all three are gay.
Their brother Mazin ((David), who has a family in Australia, arrives for a visit. After the joyful reunion, Mazin tells Layal that she and the kids need to move to Australia where he can take care of them. Although he never says so, Layal senses his disapproval of the way she raised the children.
Note: Guests are encouraged but not required to wear masks while inside the building.
Layalina runs through April 2nd in the Goodman Theatre’s Owen Theatre,170 N. Dearborn, Chicago. Most reasonable parking option for the Goodman is the Government Center garage on Lake between LaSalle and Dearborn, online advance payment at www.interparkonline.com/goodmantheatre.
Running time is 2 hours and 15 minutes, with an intermission. Performances are: Wednesdays at 7:30 pm; Thursdays at 2:00 & 7:30 pm; Fridays at 8:00 pm; Saturdays at 2:00 and 8:00 pm; Sundays at 2:00 pm
Accessible & Special Performances: ASL Interpreted Performance, April 1st at 2:00 pm; Spanish Subtitles, April 1st at 8:00 pm; & Open Captioned Performance, April 2nd at 2:00 pm.
Tickets $15-$45. FYI (312) 443-3800 or www.goodmantheatre.org/Ripple.