One Family’s Journey to CANAAN

Review by Sander Gusinow
The Midwinter Madness Festival presented by John Chatterton

There’s certainly a fire burning inside Mohammed Saad Ali. His play ‘Old Men are Full of Shit’ made waves last summer at MITF. Half economic struggle, half rage against the tethers of tradition, his new short Canaan, sees him focus his lens inward as a young mixed-heritage couple Yacub & Rachel (Muslim and Jewish) navigate an unexpected pregnancy.

The surprise baby stirs up long dead arguments, and surprisingly, Yacub & Rachel aren’t the primary belligerents. Their banter seems tranquil when compared to Yacub’s sister Dina, a brazen young woman who calls both of them out on all things misogynist and myopic. ‘We’ve been told to bite our tongues all our lives’ She tells Rachel. ‘Well now my mouth is bloody and I won’t take it any more.’

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Sara Minisquero matches Ali’s passion in her portrayal of Dina. Her righteous indignation is anchored by a sincere love of her family. (which now includes Rachel) Minisquero plays Dina’s fervor with the best intentions, so no barb is cruel, no accusation too catty.

A whole lot of story is crammed into a tense ten minutes. Possibly too much. But then, Ali is a playwright with an abundance to say. Yacub and Rachel must both adapt to their new circumstances or face brutal consequences, not unlike an audience in 2015. Hopeful, vicious, and poetically just, Canaan is a fine installment in Ali’s emerging canon.

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