Golden Thread’s ‘Urge for Going’ puts spotlight on Palestinians refugees

There’s a quietly eloquent moment in Mona Mansour’s 90-minute Palestinian family drama from 2011, “Urge for Going,” currently in a Golden Thread Productions West Coast premiere.

The family lives all together in a one-room hut in a refugee camp in Lebanon. Bombastic older brother Hamzi (a gray-bearded Julian Lopez-Morillas) rules the roost, which includes quietly brooding younger brother Adham (Terry Lamb), Adham’s wife (Tara Blau), his brother-in-law (Munaf Alsafi), a brain-damaged adult son (Wiley Naman Strasser), and a super-smart and ambitious teenage daughter (Camila Betancourt Ascencio).

Late one night Hamzi stumbles home after being smashed in the head by a guard because he stole bricks to repair a hole in their hut. After tending to Hamzi’s wound, the others wordlessly spread out their pallets in an intricate pattern on the floor, leaving the one small bed for Hamzi, and settle down.

It’s an elegant moment, revealing how this family copes in the dire circumstances in which they’ve been confined since 1948 (for Hamzi) and since 1967 (for the rest of the family).

Each one has had to give up dreams (Hamzi is reduced to fantasizing about a Catholic hospital with private toilets) as they drift aimlessly through life in this “temporary” setting. Lebanon does not grant citizenship rights to Palestinian refugees.

The play, comprising a series of short scenes set in 2003, has other painfully affecting moments as well.

It also has several necessary but slightly too didactic scenes in which the family elders struggle to tell us their circumstances, arguing, comically enough, about the chaotic chain of events and the political situation that led them here — and that has led to the plight of all Palestinians since the creation of the state of Israel.

At the heart of Mansour’s story is a troubled father-daughter relationship. Adham, once a promising Wordsworth scholar, was forced to give up his career at the onset of the 1967 war. Still smoldering with resentment, he can barely offer encouragement or affection to the girl who is so clearly following in his footsteps — and who may be the only family member with the drive and ability to escape their proscribed fate.

Director Evren Odcikin is attempting to bring out all the nuances in Mansour’s textured script. But with an uneven cast, some of the scenes that should be understated and poignant, or comically ironic, feel forced and artificial. Which is why that silent bedtime scene, in contrast, speaks volumes.

REVIEW

Urge for Going

Presented by Golden Thread Productions

Where: Z Below, 450 Florida St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. most Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays; closes Dec. 8

Tickets: $10 to $40

Contact: (415) 626-4061, www.goldenthread.org

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