With the horror of Afghanistan and the Taliban going on as I write, I am slinking towards the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. I will never forget coming into work and watching the damage to the Twin Towers and then the horror as the buildings, where I had once stood atop, where Phillipe Petit danced on the wire with unvarnished glee, crumbled in moments like a jenga toy. Those events, the current disaster in Afghanistan, and the Twin Towers, could not be more relevant to the storyline of Wendy Graf’s 2014 play, Closely Related Keys.
Julia (Sydney A. Mason) is an up and coming lawyer in a Manhattan firm. She has an on-again-off-again relationship with company lawyer, Ron (Nick Molari), who is one rung above her on the corporate ladder. She keeps him at a distance. He wants a more lasting relationship that is more steady than the occasional roll-in-the-hay. She has her eye on the prize of advancement. She has a good life, which starts to crumble when her father, Ron (Oscar Best), shows up unannounced with an unsettling surprise: a half-sister unknown to her.
When Ron was in the Iraqi war, he had a love affair with an upper-class woman that produced a child, Neyla (Mehrnaz Mohammadi), who shows up in New York gowned in middle-eastern style robes and a hijab with the expectation of bunking in with Julia. She is a violinist coming to America to audition at Julliard. She is escaping from a broken country where art and culture has disappeared, where women, who once were cultured and honored, are in danger, and more importantly, she has left behind a man, Tariq (Adrian Mohamad Tafesh).
The two women, sisters, don’t so much as clash as put up with each other. Ron, who probably should have taken Neyla in, conveniently lives in Georgia.
The action on stage does not quite live up to expectations. Through most of the play, the necessary emotion is forced and artificial, lacking that true spark that engages an audience. Only at the end, when truth emerges and the characters confront each other, does the action rise to a satisfying conclusion.
Presented by International City Theatre, Closely Related Keys is produced by caryn desai and directed by Saundra McClain, with scenery by Stephanie Kerley Schwartz; lighting by Donny Jackson; costumes by Kim DeShazo; sound by Dave Mackey; props by Patty and Gordon Briles; and John Freeland, Jr. is the production stage manager.
Closely Related Keys runs Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm through Sept. 12.