Review: Mahmoud (Pandemic Theatre)

By George Perry 

Tara Grammy
Tara Grammy in Pandemic Theatre's production of Mahmoud

Mahmoud, a Pandemic Theatre production, recently played at The Tarragon Theatre Extra Space.  It is a one-woman show showcasing its writer and performer, Tara Grammy.

 The performance comes in at just under an hour.  I recently commented to my friend Sam that sometimes these one hour plays seem like a week in hell, other times they seem like a five-minute coffee break cut short.  This one felt like ten minutes.

Grammy plays three or four characters.  She’s a young University student, a cab driver, and two or three others that aren’t really clear.  She runs across the stage, she drives a cab and she pimps perfume samples.  She’s plays them all well.  However, the connection between them is never really made clear.  I expected to be engaged by a cab driver with interesting and diverse stories.

It is a one-act play, but it really came across as two acts.  In the first, I was really impressed with the simple yet effective effects.  Grammy snaps her fingers and BAM! The sound changes and she switched into another of the three or so characters she plays. Linn Farley and Mike Conley do great work on light and sound.

During the first half, I was really distracted by the giggling audience.  The nervous reaction really took away from my appreciation of Grammy’s work, and I think it put a glass ceiling on her performance, hindering it.  Fortunately we all grew up about halfway through.  The audience became more respectful, and Grammy blossomed.

Her performance was exceptional in the second half.  We were engaged.  The universality of superficiality was made clear.  Name-brands apparently mean as much in Tehran as they do in Toronto.  Toronto was portrayed as a second tier name brand too.

Grammy’s portrayal of a potential agent came across as unfortunate at best, anti-Semitic at worst. I felt there to be an over-use of F-bombs during this scene. If the agent didn’t offer to represent Grammy, he’s a simple fool, not an evil Jew.  I was also troubled by her resorting to Pollack jokes.

If you are trying to gain sympathy from a person like me who resembles “The Man,” you’re not going to do it with Pollack jokes.  My wife is Lithuanian, and she was tormented many times by cruel children for being a “Rouskie.”  That being said, Grammy is welcome to come over anytime Gramma Katie serves up Pierogies. We’re tolerant. We’re also Canadian, thoroughly Canadian.

Overall, I thought it came across like an audition. Grammy becomes three or four characters who aren’t really connected. She does play them all really well though.

I didn’t learn anything about Iran as a result of seeing this production.  From the promotional material on the piece, one would have expected more insight as to why Iranian engineers prefer driving cabs in Toronto, rather than pursuing their trade in Tehran.

I suppose I was meant to learn this from the final scene. It was interpretive dance.  I don’t think it tied anything together, and found it to be just more excellent auditioning.

It is a damn fine audition, as Grammy has incredible talent and charisma as a performer. It will be interesting to see how she grows as a writer.

-Mahmoud played at the Tarragon Theatre Extra Space in March.

Photo of Tara Grammy

4 thoughts on “Review: Mahmoud (Pandemic Theatre)”

  1. Dear Mr. Perry,
    I don’t understand that you didn’t get the story of this play. It was very
    simple and nothing too complicated. As someone who writes reviews you should
    understands better than all of us. The story was very clear. There was no anti semitic comments or anything bad said about Poland. May be you should have paid more attention to the play.
    It was a fantastic story and brought tears to all of our eyes.
    I am so sorry that Toronto has reviewers like you.
    Arta KIpiani

  2. I also forgot to mention that one of the best actors in Hollywood, Mr. Woody Harrelson came to see this show twice. He brought his cast and crew the second time and called the show a tour de force.
    Pay more attention to your reviews dear.
    ArtA Kipiani

  3. Ms. Kipani,

    On behalf of Mooney on Theatre let me say thank you for taking the time to let us know your thoughts. I am happy that you enjoyed the show and think it is great that you offer a contrary opinion to the review above. I love it when people tell us their thoughts on the productions we cover, because everyone has a different view, and if it were possible, I’d include them all on the blog. I do think that it is unfortunate that you felt you needed to personally attack Mr. Perry with the statement “I am so sorry that Toronto has reviewers like you.”

    Mr. Perry was simply telling his experience of the piece. Which is what I ask my writers to do. There are no absolutes, there is what they like and what they don’t, not what is good and what is bad. So, in this case, he did not like it, and you did. If it is necessary to put it in absolute terms then for him it was bad (although I didn’t think it was a particularly harsh review, so perhaps it would be more accurate to say “for him it was not great”) and for you it was great. And that is the wonderful nature of theatre. Everyone experiences it differently.

    As for his commentary on the representation of a character as “an evil Jew” and the character “resorting to Pollack jokes” whether or not it was intended to make him uncomfortable is not relevant, he was simply stating that it did. It may be something that no one else would notice, but it doesn’t matter, because he is telling us about his experience of the piece, and his experience included discomfort.

    What would be helpful for potential future audiences of the piece would be if, instead of criticizing the review, you could tell us what it was about the production that moved you, tell us what the experience was for you.

    As to your second comment, I’m very happy for you that Mr. Harrelson enjoyed the piece. Indeed, I’m very happy for him too, there is little in this world as satisfying to me as seeing a piece of theatre I love. I think it’s great that he had that experience.

    But again, I think there is room for all kinds of experiences, and that we can only ask people to tell us of their experience, nothing more.

    I wish you, Pandemic Theatre, and Tara Grammy (who, according to the review above is a fantastic actor) all the best for the future.

  4. The big part of the show points out the different side of the Persian society but you don’t hear one Persian complaining about it. It’s such a shame that the Jewish community in North America continue to segregate themselves and label any views that is different to what they believe as Anti-Sematic. Before you label me as anti-sematic, I am Jewish, married to a Jew and have many Israeli Jewish friends in Europe who think very little of APAC supporters in North America mainly in Toronto and NYC. Shame on you for being so ignorant and for creating a bigger divide in the community. SHAME!

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