The Furious Theatre Company presents the Los Angeles premiere of a witty black comedy, Back of the Throat, which aptly illustrates the sometimes surreal paranoia that envelopes a target group such as Muslims or Arabs post-9/11, or even more broadly, after any military action against the US where the enemy isn't white Anglo-Saxon. The ensemble skillfully balance both the dramatic and comic aspects of this 90-minute intermissionless piece.
Playwright Yussef El Guindi based this engrossing piece on an actual incident. The time: sometime after the 9/11 attacks. The place is the rundown and filthy apartment (designed by Shawn Lee) of Khaled, a writer (Ammar Mahmood). Based on tips from a stripper, a librarian, and a former girlfriend (all played with a disarming gusto by Vonessa Martin as seen in flashbacks), two government agents (Doug Newell and Anthony Di Novi) come to talk to and terrorize Khaled about his association with Asfoor (Aly Mawji), a recent Arab immigrant who has committed suicide.
At first, Khaled is obliging, explaining, "I want to help. I've been looking for a way to help." As for the agents, what they do is "not profiling." Rather, it's "deduction" and they assure Khaled that, "At no time should you feel this is an ethnic thing."
When Carl and Barlett bully and pummel Khaled, this could become oppressingly dark as some of Harold Pinter's works; however, El Guindi has written in moments of comic concern: the agents request Khaled fill out evaluation forms because the agency wants the public to know it cares.
Director Damaso Rodriguez has deftly modulated the tone and the mood shifts. The transitions flow smoothly and the timing of Newell and Di Novi as bantering partners is spot on.
The slender, dark Mahmood looks like an average grad student and is able to insinuate a specter of guilt that leaves the audience unsure until the very end, while Mawji makes Asfoor seem both lost and tragic.