Hajja Souad’s story, eight decades of life lived, is woven into a narrative of resilience, hope, and the changing tides in Palestine during her long lifetime. Brought to life in the U.S. premiere of The Shroud Maker at Chicago Dramatists by International Voices Project in collaboration with Intercultural Music, Ahmed Masoud’s play about a burial shroud maker offers audiences a lot to consider about life. A mix of dark comedy and biography, Masoud’s text reminds us that there is laughter even in our darkest moments.
The Shroud Maker
Through 4/8: Fri-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM; Chicago Dramatists, 798 N. Aberdeen, ivpchicago.org, previews $10, regular run $20 ($15 senior, $10 students based on availability)
Even so, this production feels more like a dramatic reading than a full-out performance. The show, said to be around 75 minutes, clocks in at just 65, which shows how quickly the text is delivered. It’s unclear whether this rushed performance is due to the direction of the show by Marina Johnson or its delivery by the single performer on stage, Roxane Assaf-Lynn, but either way, the text’s power is lost throughout several of the story’s most impactful moments.
Whether lines are swallowed or reimagined interactions by the single actor aren’t given the proper time to marinate in their intensities, The Shroud Maker isn’t living up to the potential given to it by Masoud’s intricate playwriting. One-person shows can be such difficult ones to mount because the single actor has to muster the emotions of many when portraying other people in addition to their own character. It’s clear from brief moments throughout the production that Assaf-Lynn can capture these intimate memories to enlighten us all. But the rest of the run would benefit greatly by giving her more room, time, or stage direction to fully embrace those moments to perform them to their full potential.