Review: I DON’T KNOW

by Lynn on October 3, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

In person at the Gaol Yard, Kitchener, Ont, as part of the IMPACT21 Festival, and on-line. Plays: Oct. 2 & 3, 2021.

Written by Ahmad Meree

Director, Pam Patel

Lighting by Nadia Ursacki

Sound designer, Janice Jo Lee

Set and costumes by Madeline Samms

Yet another fascinating play by Ahmed Meree (Suitcase, Adrenaline).

From the programme information: “Saeed is a troubled men in an intense negotiation with a regular visitor. Saeed suffers from paralyzing fear of disease, disability and death. The visitor badgers him in an attempt to take over Saeed, continuously provoking a fight or flight response. Saeed is so overwhelmed that he is no longer able to distinguish who is his doctor and who is his psychiatrist. The question is, who is the visitor and who is Saeed?”

Saeed (Ahmad Meree) sits pensively at a table. He wears a shirt, sweater-vest, pants and is barefoot. A man (Majdi Bou-Matar)  appears behind him in his underwear. Is he a lover? A visitor?  Saeed complains of his health. He fears he has cancer. He smokes. The visitor says he must go to the doctor. At the doctor’s (Majdi Bou-Matar) Saeed is told to give up smoking. He says he can’t. He is told he will die if he does not give it up. Saeed can’t help himself. He frets so much he goes to his psychiatrist (Majdi Bou-Matar) for further help. He yells at Saeed. Saeed yells back. And on and on. Saeed is asked various simple questions, the answer to which is: “I don’t know.”

It’s all existential in Ahmad Meree’s new play. Saeed is so consumed with worry about his health and his world that he seems paralyzed with it and can’t do much at the beginning except stare out into the distance. He must be goaded into seeking help by the visitor.

In Pam Patel’s fluid production Majdi Bou-Matar segues efficiently from visitor to doctor to psychiatrist back to visitor by first putting on his clothes and then just putting on and off a white doctor’s coat. As Saeed, Ahmad Meree has that far away look but also pent-up emotion. This is a man who is anxious and is consumed by it, unable almost to function. Frustration is in his voice as he bellows at his visitor/doctor/psychiatrist. I thought it got a bit shouty as Majdi Bou-Matar as the psychiatrist yelled various comments about stopping smoking, and Ahmad Meree bellowed back. This is tricky. After a while if there is too much relentless shouting, the audience stops listening. That’s not a good think. Bou-Matar offers an offhandedness to his characterizations as doctors who are not too caring. This plays nicely with Meree’s anxious, frustrated Saeed.

There are interesting images: Saeed staring out into the void at the beginning; looking up his condition in wide reams of paper that tangle him up as he reads and reads and gets more and more concerned. At times Saeed also puts on the doctor’s coat making us wonder who is the doctor and who is the patient.

I Don’t Know creates a world submerged in uncertainty and that certainly causes anxiety, sort of like our world today. Fascinating play.

I am grateful that the IMPACT21 Festival is offering on-line streamings of this show if one can’t physically go to Kitchener to see the show live. But this is less than ideal. The lighting seemed dark and details were lost in the gloom. I would love to be able to better see the set, which was composed of card-board boxes stacked up at the back. There were large bunches of papers strewn around Madeline Samms set. The scenes of extended shouting should be reviewed and perhaps toned down in a way that still establishes that anxiety.  

Produced by Theatre Mada

Plays: Oct 2 & 3, 2021.

Running Time: 50 Minutes.

Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.