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  The Who and the What at Victory Gardens Theater - Biograph

The Who and the What

Victory Gardens Theater - Biograph
2433 N. Lincoln Ave Chicago

Raised in a conservative Muslim family in Atlanta, the outspoken and brilliant Zarina recently completed a book about women and Islam. When her traditional father and sister discover the manuscript, it threatens to tear her family apart. With humor and ferocity, 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Ayad Akhtar and director Kimberly Senior examine the giant chasm between our traditions and our contemporary lives.

Thru - Jul 12, 2015



Price: $15-$60

Show Type: Comedy/Drama

Box Office: 773-871-3000

Running Time: 2hrs; one intermission

www.victorygardens.org


Victory Gardens Theater - Biograph Seating Chart


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  The Who and the What Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Recommended

"...To some degree, "The Who & The What" is probing the same ground as that of Arthur Miller's "A View From the Bridge" or the issues behind the musical "The Fiddler on the Roof." These all are stories of smart, loved, educated young people trying simultaneously to pay homage to their moralizing religious traditions and community while also self-actualizing and striking out on their own."
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Chris Jones


Chicago Sun Times - Recommended

"...The latest example of his approach to some of the quandaries of contemporary existence is "The Who & the What," which debuted at Lincoln Center last year, and is now receiving its Midwest premiere at Victory Gardens Theater. The production features brisk, unaffected direction by Ron OJ Parson, and a cast of four stylish actors, all of whom share Akhtar's flair for hip humor and playing against the grain."
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Hedy Weiss


Windy City Times - Recommended

"...What distinguishes Zarina Jatt from her peers in this well-worn genre is not only that she is female, but that her rebellion does not spring from romantic willfulness. On the contrary, her husband, Eli, enjoys his in-laws' wholehearted approval, despite his origins as an atheist "red-diaper baby" from Detroit who converted to Islam and now serves in a ghetto mosque. Besides, Zarina's Pakistani immigrant father, Afzal, is, himself, considerably westernized, having worked his way up from driving a taxi to managing his own company, as well as single-handedly raising his two daughters. Even Zarina's sister Mahwish, though granting superficial compliance to her father's old-country customs, frolics on the down-low."
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Mary Shen Barnidge


Gapers Block - Recommended

"...All four characters are well-drawn and strongly performed. Barkhordar is especially powerful as the patriarch trying to guide his daughters' lives in a traditional way through the chaos of modern culture. (Barkhordar won a Jeff nomination for his portrayal of the minister of culture in Red Orchid's In a Garden in 2013.) Jamshidi and Gandhi are excellent as two sisters with opposite personalities but mutual respect for their culture. Kenyon plays the serious Eli as a committed Muslim hoping to make lives better."
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Nancy Bishop


Time Out Chicago - Recommended

"...Akhtar, a novelist who’s still relatively new to writing for theater even with a Pulitzer under his belt, could work on pacing; Act I feels a little languorous in its storytelling, while the second act rushes by at breakneck speed. Still, these are complex, nuanced characters, created with care by Ron OJ Parson’s strong cast. Barkhordar is particularly fine as a father who clearly wants only what’s best for his daughters, even if he has different ideas about what’s best than they do."
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Kris Vire


Chicago On the Aisle - Somewhat Recommended

"...Despite Zarina’s willfulness, and the propensity of a Western audience to side with her independent spirit, it is Barkhordar’s bear of a man who more fully engages the viewer. Afzal is a cultural transplant, a widower still suffering the pain of that loss, an old-world patriarch doing what he believes in his heart is right for his daughters. We may regard that entrenched world view as oppressive, even outrageous, but he is Akhtar’s most sharply drawn character here. The play’s big picture seems skewed."
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Lawrence B. Johnson


ChicagoCritic - Somewhat Recommended

"...To suggest that Muhammad subconsciously fabricated revelations isn’t just a new interpretation or a modernization, it strikes at the very core of the religion. Every immigrant group to come to the United States has gone through a process of liberal natural-born citizens rejecting their immigrant parents’ conservativism, but recent immigrants have to make a much larger adjustment in a much shorter time than the ones who came over a hundred years ago. Akhtar seems to be interested in whether “moderate Muslim” refers to Pakistani or American standards of moderation. It’s an interesting discussion, and, when viewed in conjunction with Disgraced and Akhtar’s other projects, Akhtar provides a nuanced viewpoint. On its own, however, The Who and the What needs to be presented more seriously than this production for non-Muslims to grasp the importance of its themes."
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Jacob Davis


Chicago Stage Standard - Not Recommended

"...The Who and The What is being marketed as a kind of open book on the state of Muslim culture in America though it is really far more relaxed than that. As an American with Pakistani heritage, exploitation would not serve Akhtar's best interest and what he delivers is far less of an inciting expose than one might reasonably imagine after Disgraced. Yet, paradoxically, it is that same restraint and intuitive respect for his source material that holds The Who and The What back from the being the kind of knock-down-drag-out work that it could have been. Despite a wrenching tandem of scenes at the close, so much of the play feels collegiate, intellectualized and strangely polite. No doubt The Who and The What gives us much to discuss. It's just too bad that it offers so little to actually invest in."

Kevin Greene


Around The Town Chicago - Recommended

"...Victory Gardens production of "The Who and the What" is a wonderful family story that rings so true. It made me laugh and it made me think. In fact, it gave me a whole new perspective on culture, religion and assimilation. I give "The Who and the What" 4 Spotlights."
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Carol Moore


Chicago Theatre Review - Recommended

"...This conclusion to Victory Gardens’ 40th season is an admirable piece of theatre. It’s a work that explores that confusing space between the religious and the secular. It helps contemporary American audiences to understand the often strange and confusing world of Islam. Deep down Akhtar has actually written a fascinating, universal story about the unique bond between all parents and their children that will stay with audiences for a long time to come."
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Colin Douglas


Chicagoland Theater Reviews - Highly Recommended

"..."The Who & the What" may not be as densely textured as "Disgraced" or challenge the viewer as deeply. But it is still entertaining and raises enough prickly issues to engage the audience's mind as well as their funny bone. Akhtar started at the top of the dramatic mountain with "Disgraced" and I might have appreciated "The Who & the What" even more if it has preceded the Pulitzer titlest rather than following it."

Dan Zeff


  The Who and the What Photo Gallery

   This show has been Jeff Recommended*

*The designation of "Jeff Recommended" is given to a production when at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed outstanding by the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee.


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