Set in Naperville, and featuring a powerful array of actors from suburbs like River Forest, Evanston, Lincolnshire, and Highland Park, Silk Road Rising's world premiere production of "Mosque Alert" offers a detailed dissection of America through an Illinois lens. Written by playwright Jamil Khoury--himself a Mount Prospect native--and inspired by the "Ground Zero Mosque" controversy, "Mosque Alert" is an important and timely examination of the diverse and complicated society many Chicagoland natives find themselves in.
While the events in "Mosque Alert" are imagined (DuPage county has yet to see a battle as contentious as the characters in Khoury's riveting drama; some cases have been resolved by judges, but practically every day, another case emerges), the play does draw heavily on the locale and people of Naperville, as Old Nichols Library is the site of the fictitious proposed mosque. This gives the play significant authenticity, and helps root the play's message firmly in the present.
Equally important in creating an authentic world is the work of each cast member. As I mentioned earlier, many of the production's actors--from Napervilleans Anand Bhatt and Nina Ganet, to Evanston's Mark Ulrich and River Forest's Rula Gardenier---come at their characters with an honest knowledge of what it means to reside in a Chicago suburb, and this combines with the play's sharp writing to create a gallery of fully believable characters. Even Steve Silver's anti-Muslim hate monger is played with a shocking amount of humanity and finesse. As a whole, the ensemble taps into the universal to collectively mine the human truth at the heart of Khoury's complex play.
Work by the design team also helps heighten the world of the play, without obscuring the work of the actors or playwright. Dan Stratton's minimal set design provides the perfect playground for actors to voice their closely-held beliefs. Lindsey Lyddan's precise lighting design perfectly complements the set, delineating space and, in a particularly evocative moment, painting the off-white carpet with a radiant, kaleidoscopic wash. Original music and sound design by Thomas Dixon deftly adds to the production's tone, while drawing from a variety of diverse musical styles to mirror the cultural intersections at the play's core.
"Mosque Alert" is, without a doubt, an ambitious production in both scope and agenda. Khoury's play takes us into the lives of three distinct suburban families with a richness and detail many playwrights would shy away from. At the same time, in carefully and unbiasedly portraying even the most despicable of characters, Khoury manages to further heighten this issue's relevance in 2016. "Mosque Alert" is a deeply political, deeply personal treatise on the state of Muslim-American relations in America. Presented with vigor from a talented and diverse cast, this incisive and compelling new American drama is not to be missed.