Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The Who & the What
Round House Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of An Octoroon


Tony Mirrcandani and Anu Yadav
Photo by Cheyenne Michaels
This has been a busy year for playwright Ayad Akhtar in the Washington area. Following Arena Stage's incisive production of Disgraced, Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland, has staged Akhtar's more comic examination of family and heritage, The Who & the What.

Director Eleanor Holdridge and a strong four-person ensemble ably bring to life a story that, through its depiction of a Muslim family in the U.S., also deals with universal topics such as the conflicts between parents and children and between tradition and new ideas.

Afzal (Tony Mirrcandani) came to America from Pakistan and worked his way up from driving a cab to owning a cab company. His younger daughter, nursing student Mahwish (Olivia Khoshatefeh), is preparing to marry a man she has known since they were both children, while older daughter Zarina (Anu Yadav) is writing a book about Muhammad that challenges many of the beliefs she was raised to accept. "Nobody knows who the prophet really was," Zarina tells Eli (Brandon McCoy), a convert to Islam whom Afzal has picked out as a suitable husband for her.

Mirrcandani, with his disarming manner and resonant voice, is the anchor of the play, living a tradition-based life while enjoying modern technology (he's especially fond of social media). He loves his daughters and is determined to protect them, but that love has a dark side, as when he warns Zarina that devout Muslims could kill her for what they would consider her defamation of the prophet and worries that Eli is failing as a husband by not restraining his wife.

Yadav gives a luminous performance as a woman determined to prove that Islam is not an inherently misogynistic belief system, that it's been misunderstood and misinterpreted over the centuries. Khoshatefeh shows the humor of a woman trying to live according to traditional beliefs while looking for ways to maneuver around them, while McCoy is sincere as a man who has found wholeness in his religion.

Luciana Stecconi's scenic design, with its two concentric turntables and sliding panels, incorporates Islamic geometric designs in a series of settings.

Round House Theatre
The Who & the What
May 25th - June 19th
By Ayad Akhtar
Mahwish: Olivia Khoshatefeh
Eli: Brandon McCoy
Afzal: Tony Mirrcandani
Zarina: Anu Yadav
Directed by Eleanor Holdridge
4545 East-West Highway
Bethesda, MD
Ticket Information: 240-564-1100 or www.roundhousetheatre.org


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