Now on stage at ACT: Romance and clashing cultures

Jun 19, 2011

Seattle playwright Yussef El Guindi usually delves into heavy stuff: racial profiling and terrorism.

But his new play, "Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World," which is having its world premiere at Seattle's ACT Theatre, is a romantic comedy.

Musa is an Egyptian immigrant who picks up a woman named Sheri in his cab on a late night in New York City.

Sheri's a neurotic, sassy waitress. She’s ridden in his cab before but this time, Musa takes her back to his Brooklyn apartment where awkwardness and, eventually, romance, ensues.

El Guindi was born in Egypt and grew up in London. He is the recipient of the 2010 Middle East America Distinguished Playwright Award. He says this play, which was workshopped at the 2010 Icicle Creek Theater Festival in Leavenworth, looks at two people who really aren't all that different.

"Sheri says something to the effect of what Musa reminds me of is that we are all immigrants. We are all searching for something. And we never quite stop."

For both cab driver and waitress, their shared search is to make a new life.

The romance, however, gets tested by some surprises. Musa has a secret. He also struggles with the feeling that he isn't a good Muslim. He tries to balance his faith in a new country, with new customs as he falls for Sheri.

El Guindi's writing is funny and conversational, something actor Shanga Parker appreciates. The actor, who lives in Seattle and Los Angeles, plays Musa.

"There’s so much heart in this play. There's no cynicism. It's not an angry, ironic play. It's people trying to do their best and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but the attempt is what’s interesting."

Man meets woman. They're really into each other but they don't always get each other. And that's when things get funny. (El Guindi also writes one of the best scenes about a woman's love handles. You'll never look at an escalator in the same way).

The play “Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World” continues at ACT Theatre through July 17.

It's directed by Seattlelite Anita Montgomery, who shares her thoughts on the play in this video, here: