Categories: Arts Theater

Pesky Middle East politics at center in funny ‘Love, Bombs & Apples’

The title “Love, Bombs & Apples” doesn’t convey the scope of the modern-day, global landscape that London playwright Hassan explores, with mordant humor, irony and empathy, in the four (unconnected) monologues that comprise the 90-minute American premiere.

It toured the U.K. and is now at Golden Thread Productions with its original, British actor, the excellent Asif Khan, who addresses the audience directly as he portrays four vastly different men.

Starting with a cocky young Arab in Ramallah who just wants to get laid, Khan then morphs into a nerdy Pakistani who intends to write the definitive post-9/11 epic; then a disaffected Muslim kid in England who longs for an iPhone, which he equates with jihad; and finally a troubled New York Jew with a rabid Zionist father and an equally tough-minded “Jews for Palestine” activist girlfriend.

Each man is struggling within the proscribed confines of his own environment.

In “Love in the Time of Barriers,” the Palestinian who’d rather have sex than talk about the Occupation (“Sex is hard to come by here,” he says ruefully) ends up in a comic and compromising incident at the West Bank barrier.

The clueless novelist in “Level 42” is arrested for terrorism, but there’s an ironic twist to this very funny story about the vagaries of the creative spirit.

In “The Apple,” the Muslim kid in Bradford, West Yorkshire, gazes wistfully through the glass wall of the Apple store in a Westfield mall, observing that the mall has been built “to pacify us.”

And in “Landing Strip,” the amorous and conflicted American is torn between the politics of his family and his girlfriend.

Shape-shifter Khan, trained at the Royal Academy of Drama, expertly nails four distinct accents (although, with his rapid delivery, they can be hard to follow) and distinctive physicalities and personal attributes, seemingly with little more effort than ruffling up his hair in front of a mirror, donning a pair of glasses or hunching into a hoodie.

Not all four voices feel equally authentic. In “The Apple,” for example, the character’s observations seem too obviously to come from the playwright.

In “Landing Strip,” my favorite, a boxing metaphor beautifully encapsulates a dilemma that’s complex, hilarious and utterly believable. (My companion’s favorite was the sympathetic portrayal of the frustrated writer.)

Directed by Rosamunde Hutt with careful attention to varied moods and nuances, Abdulrazzak’s monologues form a rich and seamless whole.

REVIEW
Love, Bombs & Apples
Presented by Golden Thread Productions
Where: Potrero Stage, 1695 18th St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays; closes May 6
Tickets: $15 to $75
Contact: www.goldenthread.org

Jean Schiffman

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