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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Salam Shalom ... A Tale Of Passion
Is Passionless

Also see Richard's review of The Glass Menagerie

The New Conservatory Theatre Center is presenting the Bay Area premiere of Los Angeles playwright Saleem's 1996 drama Salam Shalom ... A Tale of Passion, running through October 26 in the intimate bandbox theater complex of the NCTC. This is the Arab/American's first play, and it is based on his own experience as an Arab and Muslin and his two-year relationship with an American-Israeli lover. The playwright is playing the lead role of a gay Palestinian. The play is basically a plea for the end of violence between Israel and Palestine. Salam Shalom won the Harvey Fierstein Award for best original writing in 1996, and it has played in Southern California and had a successful tour in Sydney, Australia in 1997. The play has been revised and restaged to make it more relevant to current events.

Salam Shalom
Brad Cooreman & Saleem
Salam Shalom tells of two men, a Palestinian named Nabeel Ahmad (Saleem), and Israeli Yaron Mizrahi (Bradford Cooreman), thrown together as teacher roommates at UC, Berkeley. Nabeel is a progressive Palestinian who is trying to find a bridge between the two opposing cultures and who believes both sides should be equal and live together in harmony. The love of these two men is supported by a talkative Berkeley friend Liza (Danielle Thys). The family members in Tel Aviv and Jordan opposed the relationship. Everything seems all sweetness and light at the end of the first act as the two prepare to go back to the Holy Land.

The second act takes place in Israel and Palestine in the present, when suicide bombing and killing of the Palestinians by the Israeli army is the order of the day. The love between the two men starts to wear away from all of the pressures of living in this conflicted area.

Salam Shalom could have been an informed plea for tolerance and a protest of religious jingoism. It should have been a simple love story between the two men without all the intrusions of arguments about occupation and the intifada in that area. Much of the play is editorializing of the current situation in that war torn country. The play slows down while friends and family members occasionally give wooden speeches from little booths that light up on each side of the small stage. The play becomes a tedious and political lecture.

The Salam cast does what it can with some of the cumbersome scenes. There is no chemistry between Saleem and Cooreman. Saleem, who has lived the part, seems to be the only one understands his character, while Cooreman is miscast as the Jewish lover. Two of the females, Sheri Bass as the unrequited love interest of Nabeel and Ann Kuchins as Mira the liberal mother of Yaron, give excellent performances. Danielle Thys as Liza tries to lighten the slow moving scenes with some vivacious conversation. Robert Cooper makes a credible Palestinian father and gives an authoritative performance in the second act. David Kirkpatrick as the narrow minded brother and Israeli soldier of Yaron gives a good performance.

Salam Shalom continues thru October 26 at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness at Market, San Francisco. Tickets can be obtained by calling 415-861-8972.

Charles Busch's screwball comedy You Should Be So Lucky on October 29th.


Photo: Victoria Kirby


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area


- Richard Connema



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