Written and Performed by Aya Aziz; Directed by Tiff Roma
Part of the 2015 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Solo Show
Runs through 8.28.15
VENUE #4: Spectrum, 121 Ludlow Street
by Jeremy Stoller on 8.17.15
Aya Aziz in Sitting Regal by the Window.
BOTTOM LINE: A skilled performer ventures into autobiographical solo work to promising but mixed effect.
Aya Aziz plays a fictionalized version of herself in this solo play with original music about an Egyptian-American woman navigating a multicultural but unequal world where certain aspects of her identity afford her greater privilege than others. A talented singer with a strong ear for dialects, Aziz has accumulated a young life's worth of formative experiences, but the central and original ideas coalesce only intermittently amid familiar signposts of a young woman facing challenges with family, school, and peers.
A highlight of the piece is the playground interaction where Aya learns to stand up for herself, requiring the actress/playwright to take on multiple roles. This and other enacted scenes feel vibrant in a way that sections of extended narration do not. The performance takes on more complex properties when Aya asks challenging questions regarding her choices and attitudes: about the privilege she feels as someone born in the U.S., and the troublesome cultural implications surrounding her choices of who to include in her circle of family and friends.
The staging incorporates unnecessarily long transitions between the personas Aziz adopts. Rather than providing clarity as to who is speaking (which Aziz does effectively through skillful dialects and bold physical choices), it disrupts the rhythm of a show that seems to benefit from a livelier pace.
Autobiographical storytelling asks for the storyteller to be simultaneously specific and broad, intimate and objective, vulnerable without indulgence. Aziz's play suggests that crafting identities onstage and in life is a delicate balancing act of deeply political and personal choices. But I was left with a desire for a deeper understanding of Aya's narrative—not just the inventory of milestones, but the arc of those events—and of how the questions, ones that burned bright enough to inspire the creation of this show, sculpted that story.
(Sitting Regal by the Window plays at VENUE #4: Spectrum, 121 Ludlow Street, through August 28, 2015. Performances are Sun 8/16 at 2:15; Wed 8/19 at 9; Sat 8/22 at 2:30; Mon 8/24 at 3:45; and Fri 8/28 at 10. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information visit ayaaziz.com.)