Volume II, Issue I Spring 2003

Attempt at depth gets stuck in shallow end

Knowing Cairo
Written by Andrea Stolowitz
Directed by Seret Scottr

Cassius Carter Centre Stage
The Globe Theatres complex
Balboa Park, San Diego, Calif.
Through May 11

"Knowing Cairo," a new play by Andrea Stolowitz, shares more than the same floorboards with the play that preceded it at The Globe Theatres' Cassius Carter Centre Stage.

Like Abi Morgan's "Splendour," "Knowing Cairo" (in its world-premiere run) seems to be a very serious attempt to create wisdom and depth.

And, like "Splendour," it comes up short. Far short.

The story of "Knowing Cairo" revolves around Rose, an aging woman whose daughter Lydia has a hard time finding someone to care for. Rose is apparently difficult, and has chased off her prior nurses. When Lydia brings in Winsom, a middle-aged black woman, it seems Rose has met her match.

Knowing Cairo

Stolowitz may be aiming (or at least hoping) for the profound, but it's hard to see how she thought she'd get there engaging in cliches and stereotypes. The kindly black woman with the hidden intellect. The loving but materialistic daughter. The aging mother battling her regrets and loneliness.

These aren't characters – they're caricatures. How is the audience supposed to identify with them? There are sitcoms that aren't this transparent, Hallmark cards that are less emotionally manipulative.

The only time Stolowitz breaks out of the formulaic is at the very end, when she twists the plot so badly that it makes no sense at all – and leaves the audience far more confused than enlightened.

Given the shallowness of the story, it's hard to judge the caliber of the acting. Regina Hilliard Bain gives the character of Winsom the most humanity – a black woman who knows full well that there are definite limits to what will be accepted from and of her in white society. Susan Wands' Lydia occasionally shows a bit of fire, but when you're supposed to be two-dimensional, those sparks are few.

Marilyn Chris struggles with the Eastern European accent of Rose, but otherwise turns in a game performance.

The set by David Ledsinger is a credible re-creation of a middle-class apartment in New York: Comfortable, lived-in.

Too bad the same can't be said of Stolowitz's characters.

Review by Jim Trageser. Jim is a writer and editor living in Escondido, Calif.

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