Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Monday, September 25

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr

« Ted 2, Max, The Overnight, Manglehorn, A Little Chaos & Infinitely Polar Bear Physical Festival Chicago Is Coming July 7-12: Interview with the Creators »

Theater Mon Jun 29 2015

The Who and the What: Victory Gardens Play Explores Culture Clash in Pakistani-American Family

Jamshidi and Gandhi. Photo by Michael Courier.

What distinguishes contemporary faith from the traditional? It's often the ability to ask questions, to explore how meanings have changed, while still maintaining respect for its beliefs. That's the question explored in Victory Gardens Theater's new play.

The Who and the What is a smart, funny play about a conservative Pakistani-American family and their attempts to come to grips with modern realities while maintaining respect for tradition. Playwright Ayad Akhtar has written believable characters who fight articulately about what they believe in. Director Ron O J Parsons has crafted a thought-provoking and moving play with Akhtar's four characters.

Two sisters--Zarina (Susaan Jamshidi) and Mahwish (Minita Gandhi)--discuss their love lives or lack thereof as Zarina prepares dinner. Zarina is a writer, currently fighting writer's block as she tries to finish her novel about "gender politics." She won't talk about the book, but admits that it's about women and Islam. Her younger sister is engaged but knows she shouldn't marry before her older sister.

Their widowed father, Afzal (Ram Barkhordar), still mourns his wife and has traditional dreams for his daughters. He's also a hip entrepreneur who owns a large taxi company and has fully adopted modern technology. Afzal desperately wants his older daughter to marry. He poses as Zarina on an Islamic dating site and singles out Eli (Shane Kenyon), an imam and convert to Islam, as an appropriate suitor for his daughter. After Afzal and Eli meet, he persuades both Eli and Zarina to go on a date. At first, Zarina and Eli converse hesitantly, but form a bond over their discussion of Zarina's book and Islamic teachings. (The book is titled The Who and the What.)

Act two's five scenes, set a year later, introduce the couple's married life and Afzal's discovery of Zarina's completed book, which Zarina knew would be controversial in the conservative Muslim community. The rest of the play illustrates the aftermath.

All four characters are well-drawn and strongly performed. Barkhordar is especially powerful as the patriarch trying to guide his daughters' lives in a traditional way through the chaos of modern culture. (Barkhordar won a Jeff nomination for his portrayal of the minister of culture in Red Orchid's In a Garden in 2013.) Jamshidi and Gandhi are excellent as two sisters with opposite personalities but mutual respect for their culture. Kenyon plays the serious Eli as a committed Muslim hoping to make lives better.

The wide Victory Garden mainstage enables Scott Davis' set design to set several different scenes economically, each one highlighted by Sarah Hughey's lighting. A scrim across the back of the stage displays Arabic calligraphy and establishes the environment for the story.

This is the Midwest premiere of The Who and the What, which was first performed last year at Lincoln Center. The production is performed in two acts with an epilogue and runs two hours with one intermission.

The Who and the What continues at Victory Gardens through July 12. Performances are at varying times Tuesday through Sunday. Tickets for $15-50 can be purchased online or by calling 773-871-3000.

GB store
GB store

Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


An Angry White Guy
AREA Chicago
ArchitectureChicago Plus
Arts Engagement Exchange
The Art Letter
Art or Idiocy?
Art Slant Chicago
Art Talk Chicago
Bad at Sports
Bite and Smile
Brian Dickie of COT
Bridgeport International
Carrie Secrist Gallery
Chainsaw Calligraphy
Chicago Art Blog
Chicago Art Department
Chicago Art Examiner
Chicago Art Journal
Chicago Artists Resource
Chicago Art Map
Chicago Art Review
Chicago Classical Music
Chicago Comedy Examiner
Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago Daily Views
Chicago Film Examiner
Chicago Film Archives
Chicago Gallery News
Chicago Uncommon
Contemporary Art Space
Co-op Image Group
Co-Prosperity Sphere
Chicago Urban Art Society
Creative Control
Devening Projects
DIY Film
The Exhibition Agency
The Flatiron Project
F newsmagazine
The Gallery Crawl...
Galerie F
The Gaudy God
Happy Dog Gallery
Homeroom Chicago
I, Homunculus
Hyde Park Artcenter Blog
Joyce Owens: Artist on Art
Julius Caesar
Kasia Kay Gallery
Kavi Gupta Gallery
Rob Kozlowski
Lookingglass Theatre Blog
Lumpen Blog
Mess Hall
Neoteric Art
Not If But When
Noun and Verb
On Film
On the Make
Peanut Gallery
Peregrine Program
The Poor Choices Show
Pop Up Art Loop
The Post Family
The Recycled Film
Reversible Eye
Rhona Hoffman Gallery
Roots & Culture Gallery
The Seen
Sisterman Vintage
Site of Big Shoulders
Sixty Inches From Center
Soleil's To-Do's
Sometimes Store
Stop Go Stop
Storefront Rebellion
TOC Blog
Theater for the Future
Theatre in Chicago
The Franklin
The Mission
The Theater Loop
Thomas Robertello Gallery
Time Tells Tony Wight Gallery
Uncommon Photographers
The Unscene Chicago
The Visualist
Western Exhibitions
What's Going On?
What to Wear During an Orange Alert?
You, Me, Them, Everybody
Zg Gallery

GB store



A/C on Flickr

Join the A/C Flickr Pool.

About A/C

A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Nancy Bishop,
A/C staff inbox:



A/C Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15