Political intrigue and romance – during the 1979 Iranian revolution and 27 years later in a hospital room in Palo Alto – mix irresistibly in Golden Thread Productions’ world premiere “444 Days.”
Written by the local troupe’s artistic director Torange Yeghiazarian, the riveting play, as promotional materials promise, actually is a tangled tale of love, espionage and betrayal.
Yeghiazarian cleverly and entertainingly fulfills the mission of the company – to bring Middle Eastern cultures and experiences to light – in the drama. Not only does it present the revolutionary era’s complex politics with remarkable clarity and from various and opposing perspectives, it is also packed with heart and soul. It’s a feat not often realized so successfully.
Director Bella Warda impeccably stages the action to strike the perfect balance between the show’s harder-hitting facts and historical realities and the softer, fictional love affair and its long-lasting emotional reverberations.
The actors are all on board. The wonderful, deep and thoughtful Jeri Lynn Cohen plays Laleh, an Iranian mother desperately searching for a bone marrow donation that might save her 25-year-old comatose, cancer-stricken daughter.
At the show’s outset, she’s not thrilled to greet an unwanted visitor to the hospital, Harry (Michael Shipley, also delightfully three-dimensional and sympathetic). They haven’t seen each other for decades, and she tells him, “You left so much unsaid.”
As the drama enticingly unfolds, we learn more and more about the pair’s relationship – how they met and sweetly shared Persian poetry (and much more) when she was an indignant revolutionary 18-year-old student and he was among the American hostages held for 444 days during the lengthy, headline-making crisis.
Their tension-filled interactions are tempered by the sassy and dedicated nurse, Olivia (a charming Sheila Collins) who cares for her patient with humor and compassion, and, at the same time, doesn’t hold back, sharing her opinions on Iranian-American relations with the troubled couple.
Olivia’s notions, reflective of many Americans’ views, provide another counterpoint to Laleh’s pro-Iran stance and Harry’s American-government take on matters.
Together, all add up to a satisfying whole, making “444 Days” a unique and fulfilling creation _ a political tale that doesn’t slight any side of a complicated situation, and at the same time serves up snippets of love poems in Farsi and English.
Presented by Golden Thread Productions
Where: Z Below, 470 Florida St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays; closes Nov. 3
Tickets: $20 to $40