Dirt: the Emotional Landscape of Alienation. Guest Review by Rachel Scott
Dirt. Written by Robert Schneider
Directed by David Robinson
Performed by Christopher Domig
Designed by Daniel Domig
Translated by Paul Dvorak
Presented by Dreck Productions and incarNATION
at the Vancouver Fringe Festival
DIRT, presented by Dreck productions and INCARnation at this year's Vancouver Fringe, is the disjointed, emotional portrayal of an Iraqi immigrant's alienation in the West. This one-man show was written Robert Schneider in the 1990's as an expose of the tensions surrounding immigrant Iraqis during the first gulf war. Twenty years later, the story still resonates, as relations between the Arab world and the West remain complex and fraught.
However, while DIRT is about an Iraqi experience, it reflects more universally on the problems of immigration in a changing world. When we leave home, do we ever really belong somewhere else? How does our treatment of each other on a national scale translate to our treatment to each other as human beings?
While Domig's off-stage passion for the relevance of the piece is unmistakable, his performance felt a bit tired. He's been performing the show the 2007 NYC Fringe, so he may just need a good shakedown. Unfortunately, the play's lack of structure means the audience's understanding of the narrative rests almost exclusively on the actor's ability to connect with them emotionally; without a firm interest in Sad, we are lost in an irrelevant narrative. Basically, if Domig has an off-night, he'll probably lose most of the audience.
Despite my struggle to fully relate to the play, I saw DIRT with an Ecuadoran immigrant who was deeply moved to recognize the challenges of her own experience in Sad's. For her, the emotional connection was strong enough to transcend the shaky storyline. From her perspective, the play was refreshing and affirming because it gave voice to her alienation. Although there is some success there, I think the play would have met its purpose more strongly if it could have spoken with equal clarity to the native side of the population.