Chicago Politician, playwright wrote Iran tragedy for stage
Chicago Stage ReviewHaram Iran is an indictment of religious mercilessness, misinterpretation and corruption, and not a condemnation of Islam. Playwright Jay Paul Deratany tells the terrifying story with impressive conviction and passion but his script would be well served by rewriting and editing. Some scenes meander and drag while others are completely captivating. Deratany’s obvious talent and ability simply needs some polish and restraint.
As I have covered many gay issues causes on Now Public, this piece by Now Public editor Rhonda J Mangus - about three young Iranian men, convicted as juveniles of homosexuality, and set to be executed by hanging - had been of particular interest to me. It is clearly a most horrific depiction of the dangers of oppression of civil liberties which still exist in the world of the 21 st century.
By chance, a client whom I have recently signed on in my work as a media professional, and whom I am researching for press work, turns out to be a playwright who wrote the true story of two Iranian youths facing execution for homosexuality. His name is Jay Paul Deratany, and he is a Chicago attorney, politician, philanthropist, activist, and playwright.
Deratany's work was lauded by the Campaign for Human Rights as well as other gay advocacy groups and Arabian Journals, and is still being sought for production by civil rights and gay advocacy theater and ethical cultural societies.
The play, entitled Haram Iran, made its debut in November 2008 in the Chicago theater district:
Permoveo Productions presents an impressive inaugural show with its world premiere of Haram Iran. Haram is a term for that which is forbidden and in countries like Iran, the list of things considered Haram is long and the punishments are severe.
The production seems to splice my brain in three parts. First, I am compelled by the devastating story, based on actual events. In 2005, two teenage Iranian boys were tried and put to death after being accused of homosexual activities. Ayaz Marhouni and Mahmoud Asgari may or may not have been gay, but to the Iranian legal system the mere possibility of it seemed enough to seal their fates. As we lament over the regional loss of marriage rights in California, it is easy to forget that many parts of the world are still suppressed by the unforgiving, draconian and medieval condemnation of deviant sexual orientation.
[. . . ]I am deeply drawn in by the mostly impressive performances delivered by this captivating cast. Anand Bhatia (Mahmoud) and Matios Simonian (Ayaz) create a believable chemistry and capture the almost childlike innocence of these young men, isolated by the forbidding vacuum of religious oppression. Nawaf Gasem is also convincing as Fareed, friend to Mahmound and accuser of Ayaz. Ayman Samman is menacing as the brutal jailer of the young victims and Jeremy Cohn is solid as Mr. Zadeh, the attorney for the boys. Anita Chandwaney’s remarkable performance of Mrs. Marhoni, mother to Ayaz, elevates the production with transcending scenes of emotional honesty and sincere dramatic depth. In scenes of love, daily routine and great sorrow she creates the truth of human experience with powerful connection and gifted restraint. This is one of the most subtly outstanding performances of the year.
. . . it is amazing how much one performance can contrast the others. The delivery of the judge resembles the interpretations of a young child playing an angry old man in a grade school pageant. It is a testament to the skills and focus of the other actors that they can work around the startling awkwardness.
[. . . ]
It is no wonder why Director David Zak, Torch Award recipient from the Human Rights Campaign, is drawn to this project. The story is a critical and imperative homage to the young men victimized by archaic intolerance and also to the countless people around the world who suffer unthinkable persecution for their alternative sexual orientations.
Haram Iran is an ambitious production that shines a light on the frightening darkness of primitive thought that is sadly still widespread in our modern world. This is a strong play that tells a vital story.
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