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Theatre Review (LA): Salam Shalom by Saleem at the Greenway Court Theatre

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Salam Shalom returns to L.A. with heavy rewrites by the playwright, giving him another chance to explore the difficulties in Arab and Jewish relationships, especially if the relationship is gay. An Arab named Nabeel (playwright Saleem) moves into the campus apartment of Jewish UCLA Jewish student Yaron, played by Korken Alexander. At first they don’t get along and Yaron is actually hostile to his new roommate. Over time they warm to each other and become lovers and the tension shifts to secondary characters who can't accept the arrangement.

To balance out the argument Saleem introduces militants on both sides. Yaron has a brother who is in the military who accepts his brother's gayness but can't get around the fact that his new lover is an Arab. On the other side you have a militant Palestinian student played well by Jay Ali. Thrown into the mix is Yaron's mother Mira, played by Eileen Barnett, and Nabeel's father, played convincingly by Avner Garbi.

The acting is good for the most part and I was especially taken by the naturalness of Saleem as Nabeel. Korken Alexander is directed to become very aggressive sexually and this is a bit off-putting. The director should have found a way to develop the relationship more convincingly.

The scenes seem endless at times and there are long pauses between them. The playwright also resorts to using monologues by all the secondary characters instead of finding a way for them to act out their thoughts in front of us in actual scenes. In addition to the above-mentioned characters there is a lively friend of the students, played amusingly by Christine Joelle. Unfortunately she is saddled with some of the more obvious monologues.

There is potential here for a powerful and poignant piece but the play still needs reworking.

Ty Donalson directs. Salam Shalom plays at the Greenway Court Theatre until April 16th.

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