Wish Fulfillment

Wish Fulfillment

I’m not entirely proud to admit it, but one of the most enjoyable aspects of seeing Sanaz Toossi’s Wish You Were Here at Yale Rep was the discomfort I sensed in some of the men in the theater. Women have spent plenty of time watching men on stage and screen talking to each other in fraternity houses and board rooms and on poker nights, but rarely, so rarely, do we get to spend 100 minutes in the private living rooms of women being loud, funny and raunchy. Fair warning: If it makes you nervous to hear women talking bluntly about how certain body parts smell or to see what happens when you don’t realize soon enough that you’re about to get your period, you might want to down a stiff drink before heading to the theater.

Part of what makes this get-real play from Sanaz Toossi stand out from the likes of Sex and the City or Bridesmaids is the fact that its five friends—and, eventually, a sixth—are living in revolutionary Iran. Call it irony, or call it necessity, but this all-female cast of characters is letting it all hang out at precisely the time in history when Iran’s women were being ordered to cover it all up. Their educations are interrupted, sometimes never to be continued. Their religious freedom is curtailed. Their dreams are redirected. Their sense of home is forever changed.

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Under the direction of Sivan Battat—herself encountering “home” anew, as a greater New Haven expat who grew up watching performances at Yale Rep and studying at the Educational Center for the Arts—the play’s action moves from physical and bold to tight and intimate, and every one of the talented actresses in this production delivers a fully realized character. The scenic design by Omid Akbari employs a simple decorative screen evocative of the Middle East, several vague exterior doors and a single set of living room furniture, but rotation of the set asks us, literally and figuratively, to consider the story from different angles. Two walls do double duty as projection screens on which we see these women in an idealized past, picnicking on a waterfront.

This is a story about things falling apart. A happy, flickering past is unreachable except in memory, as it were; we never see it lived. In the first scene, in the final moments of preparation for the wedding of Salme, the first friend to marry, things are already coming undone, and another friend, Nazanin, is already trying to sew the gaps in the seams back together.

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My only disappointment in Wish You Were Here was with the play’s muted ending that, like the character Nazanin herself, is still trying to find itself. But don’t let that dissuade you from spending an evening with these compelling women. Arrive early enough to take a copy of the program to your seat and leaf through the collage of conversation snippets and photographs from the company on the subject of Iranian families and friendship. At the end of this printed feature, dramaturgs Amy Boratko and Hannah Fennell Gellman ask you to join them: “Picture your best friend…”

My best friend from growing up is named Kim, and this past week I texted her on the West Coast because I knew she was worried about her friends and family in Israel. Wish You Were Here is about a particular group of women in a particular time and place, but like the best theater, it’s universal, too. What a gift from the stage when, in women from another time and place, we can see ourselves.

Wish You Were Here
through October 28
Yale Repertory Theatre – 1120 Chapel St, New Haven (map)
(203) 432-1234 | $15-$65

Written by Kathy Leonard Czepiel. Image—featuring Vaneh Assadourian, Ava Lalezarzadeh, Anita Abdinezhad, Bahar Beihaghi and Shadee Vossoughi—photographed by Joan Marcus and provided courtesy of the Yale Repertory Theatre.

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