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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World is
Same Old Sitcom at ACT Theatre

Pilgrims
Shanga Parker and Carol Roscoe
Yussef El Guindi's comedy Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World might well have been titled Frankie and Johnny on the Road to Mecca for all the dazzling originality the playwright left out of his script. Director Anita Montgomery and a game cast have plunged in and earnestly do more for El Guindi's script than it does for them, but we've all seen better on your average episode of any number of mis-matched couple comedies that have dotted the stage and screen for years.

The central couple, Musa, a charming Egyptian newcomer to Manhattan, and Sheri, a brittle, smart-mouthed metropolitan waitress, embark on a rambunctious romance, interrupted by the return of Musa's American-bred but Middle-East born fiancée Gamila, returned from a visit to her intended's family. Mix in a wisecracking luggage vendor pal of Musa's named Tayyib and a spirited spirit named Abdallah, Musa's missing roommate who lost his life somehow, somewhere on a trip to his homeland and, well that's pretty much it, unless you can't possibly guess whether Musa chooses the grating eccentricities of Sheri, over the earthy and wise Gamila.

Shanga Parker plays Musa with ease and charm, while Carol Roscoe does her level best to make the foul mouthed and edgy Sheri the gal to root for, but the show is stolen by Kimberley Sustad's Gamila, a refreshingly non-stereotypical take on a middle-Eastern woman. The largely dramatic and rather lengthy scene in which Camila encounters a sleeping Sheri in Musa's apartment, pretends to be his sister, and finally has it out with her is by far the highlight of the play. But it comes at the end of act one, and nothing surprising happens in the second act, save the last minute appearance of Abdallah (a suitably otherworldly Anthony LeRoy Fuller). Sylvester Foday Kamara as Tayyib has chemistry and sparkle in his scenes with Sustad and Parker, though they are short and add little to the story .

Jennifer Zeyl's sets and L.B. Morse's lighting are up to the high standards one expects and invariably gets at ACT productions. And I want to note that the play received a standing reception from most of my fellow-first nighters, many I'm sure happy to see a big Seattle company produce a new play by a Seattle playwright. I'm happy for him too; I just want his next effort to be more of something new than something borrowed.

Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World runs through July 17 at ACT Theatre, 700 Union Street, downtown Seattle. For tickets and information go to www.acttheatre.org. or call (206) 292-7676.


Photo: Chris Bennion



- David Edward Hughes



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