The Arabian Nights
Mary Zimmerman’s “spectacular retelling” of The Arabian Nights seduces and amazes, said Pat Craig in the San Jose Mercury News. Most theatergoers will be at least passingly familiar with these stories and fables, supposedly told by the beautiful young Scheherazade in an attempt to stave off execution by her husband, King Shahryar. But few can have seen them “staged so wonderfully that you feel somehow better off just to have been in the theater” to witness it. For nearly two and a half hours, this “wildly funny” and “highly dramatic” piece flies along like Aladdin’s magic carpet (conspicuously absent in Daniel Ostling’s brilliantly spare set). Zimmerman’s intricate and effective direction keeps every inch of the stage constantly “alive with action,” be it a camel pantomime, a deadly duel, or a bit of erotic rolling on the floor.
“Zimmerman has a genius for building stage spectaculars from the most basic, old-fashioned materials,” said Robert Hurwitt in the San Francisco Chronicle. Her narrative selections are wisely chosen, flowing perfectly as one tale unfolds into another. Her casting selections are equally inspired. Sofia Jean Gomez is sinuous and enchanting as Scheherazade, and Ryan Artzberger is alternately cold and transfixing as Shahryar. The panoply of minor characters—from Allen Gilmore’s wise fool to Melina Kalomas’ woman scorned to Jesse J. Perez’s thief with honor—is “perfectly etched.” TJ Gerckens’ wonderful lighting can magically turn barren concrete walls into “a harem, a madhouse, or the Tigris at night.” Like the king, audiences will likely find themselves not wanting these Nights to end.