“The Strangest” did an incredible job setting the scene. As soon as we walked into the 4th Street Theatre, we entered a traditional Algerian storytelling café. The room was dimly lit. Colorful ornate rugs decorated the floor. While we waited for the show to start, my best friend and I drank Turkish coffee.
Inspired by Albert Camus’ 1942 novel, “The Stranger”, playwright Betty Shamieh tells the untold story of “the Arab”. In The Stranger, a French colonial man kills the Arab for no reason.
Through the ancient art of storytelling, the audience discovers the Arab’s Algerian culture, family life and more. The Strangest also goes deep. It tackles important social issues like oppression, poverty, and domestic violence.
Front Row Seats
The audience had two seating options. You can watch the show from wooden benches. Or you can sit on plush pillows. We chose the latter.
Front row seats – trying Turkish coffee for the first time!
Since this was our first time at an Arab storytelling café, we wanted to immerse ourselves in the cultural experience.
Can I just say that we had the best seats in the house! We shared the stage with the cast. They even used our kettle as a prop!
(photo by Hunter Canning Photography)
Context: Algeria is a French colony. Thousands of French men and women have moved to Algeria. After more than 100 years of occupation, racial and cultural tension threaten the peace.
In the first scene, Umm bursts into a traditional Arab storytelling café. She is an older Algerian woman.
There she boldly defies societal norms. She is the only woman at the storytelling competition. Arab storytelling competitions were traditionally only for men.
Instead of retelling stories like “The Arabian Night”, she intrigues us with a story about her three sons. She asks, which son did the Frenchman kill? The good Arab, the harmless Arab or the bad Arab?
Umm and Nader, the sensitive artist (photo by Hunter Canning Photography)
Did the Frenchman kill Nemo, the lustful bad boy? Did he gun down Nader, the sensitive artist? Or did he kill innocent Nounu?
Umm quickly cuts to the chase. She blames her seductive niece Layali. According to Umm, Layali tore her family apart.
Love vs. Opportunity
Seduction at it’s best or worse? (photo by Hunter Canning Photography)
All three Algerian brothers are in love with their cousin Layali. As they vie for her love, they become bitter rivals.
Despite loving each brother, she abandons her clan. Instead, she pursues a Frenchman. Layali believes that by marrying Gun, she will become rich. She plans to move to France.
Tension at the dinner table (photo by Hunter Canning Photography)
Gun wears a giant gun as a hat. He also never speaks the native language. He only says the word “bang”.
After meeting Layali’s family for the first time, Layali and Gun get into a fight. He wants to stay in Algeria. But she wants to move to France. During a heated argument, he physically assaults her. This slow motion scene gave me goosebumps.
Running back to her clan, Layali quickly realizes that the grass isn’t greener on the other side.
He’s going to pay for what he did to you! (photo by Hunter Canning Photography)
When the brothers find out, they are furious. Despite their mother’s warning, they storm out of the house. They want to honor their clan by seeking revenge.
Out in the streets, one of the brothers gets killed.
Expect a jaw-dropping twist at the end.
The Strangest questions our character, morals, and motives. It reminds us to stay true to ourselves and align our values with our goals.
“One of the themes that hit home was the role that race and cultural identity play in society. It made me think about my life and the trials that I’ve faced. While watching the show, I effortlessly connected with the actors and the story. I left the theater wanting to hear and feel more.” by Daphne M.
Coming to terms with the truth (photo by Hunter Canning Photography)
The Strangest also had a strong feminist tone. It shined a light on domestic violence and it shared how far some go to have a “better” life. Although the show portrays the past, it was still relevant today.
Tickets: $25 USD for general admission.
I was a guest at this show, however, all opinions are my own.
Author: Danielle Desir
Danielle Desir is a Travel Finance Strategist that uses her financial background and knack for financial planning to empower those who want to travel afford travel and excel in their personal finances. She shares creative planning strategies, saving tips, cheap flight deals and even talks about her student loan repayment journey on her blog, The Thought Card. Her financial expertise has taken her across the globe to over 21 countries and 3 continents (and counting), all while paying off her student loans, saving for a house, owning a home, and working full-time.
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