Review by: Beverly Horton
In his one-man show Borderland, writer/performer imagines and represents the struggles and dreams of Navid, a gay Iranian man trying to escape nearly-certain death in his homeland* and trying to find a new land that offers a chance to live life in safety and happiness.
Etemadi plays three characters: Navid, the central character, and two secondary characters, Zia, the homophobic cocaine-addicted thug, and Leila, the nurturing sister/mother. Reading these two characters in figurative terms, Zia and Leila function as placeholders/spaceholders. Zia stands in for the frightening land that lies on one side of Borderland; Leila stands in for the “promised land” on Borderland’s other side. A liminal space, Borderland is the in-between of Navid’s past and the unnamed “elsewhere” space of his future.
I find this dynamic play between place and personal discovery compelling. That said, this comment is much more about the play’s potential than it is a commentary on the play in its early incarnation. The oddness or awkwardness of some content and structure choices in the play might be attributed to the fact that Borderland is the playwright’s first solo show. The musical theatre element, for example, was one such odd and awkward content choice. The songs that pop into the show seem ill-fit, out of place.
There were interesting and intelligent choices made in terms of props and lighting though. In the opening scene in fact, two small flashlights are put to clever and compelling use as they simulate vehicles approaching then passing Navid in the dark of night.
I think that Borderland is a brave attempt on Izad Etemadi’s part to introduce audience members to a face and material reality alien to them.
* Iran is one of only five counties where homosexuality is punishable by death.