My guest and I were very excited about the Writer’s Theatre opening. We weren’t the only ones. As we entered the lobby (having shown our vaccination cards and IDs and wearing masks), people were excitedly greeting one another, thrilled to see friends in-person.
Writers Theatre, under the leadership of Executive Director Kathryn M. Lipuma and Interim Artistic Director Bobby Kennedy, opened its 2021/22 Season with Dishwasher Dreams, written and performed by Alaudin Ullah, directed by Chay Yew, and in association with Hartford Stage. Dishwasher Dreams runs to January 16, 2022 in the Alexandra C. and John D. Nichols Theatre at 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe.
Neither the title nor write ups I read about the play led me to expect the remarkable work I saw. Reading the title, visions of my dishwasher, the electronic kind, came into my head, when in fact, the dishwasher in the story uses his hands to wash dishes in a restaurant. This immigrant story is told by Alaudin Ullah, a skilled and brilliant stand-up comedian. In Ullah’s presentation the story takes the audience on a journey that twists and turns. This is an unusual and remarkable one person show that immediately engages the viewer in what feels like a very intimate and personal story.
The performance begins with sitting on bare stage playing the tabla coaxing the audience to clap in time with his rhythm while never uttering a word. His live accompaniment enriched the performance, as the table beats set off Ullah’s spoken words. While many show featuring a single performer use all kinds of props to create several characters, I was struck with simplicity of a bare stage with only one chair used to create different scenes as his characters changed, no costume changes, no curtain, “no nothing” except Ullah’s energy and skill which maintained the feeling of a stand-up comic as he kept the audience entranced and laughing.
Moving in and out of the core story, in which he is torn between his dream of becoming a successful actor and his family obligation. In L.A. at an audition, he is asked to return home to New York due to a family medical emergency. This is the dilemma that he moves toward and away from in his story.
We learn of his father’s departure from Bangladesh where he sailed for many years, finally, sometime in the 1970’s he stepped off of a ship that originated in India into Spanish Harlem.
We learn of his relationship with his father, the dishwasher, his mother, his brother, his love of baseball, his journey through being a stand-up comic while reaching for his dream of that important acting role. The rhythmic quality of his words synchronized with the beats of the tabla, his choreographed movement across the stage, his use of the chair to create new scenes resulted in a story that was poignant, important and very rewarding to experience.
Interim Artistic Director Bobby Kennedy comments, “Dishwasher Dreams is the perfect show to welcome audiences back to Writers Theatre because it is theatre at its most essential–an actor, a musician, and a heartfelt story. With only these potent ingredients, the performance manages to take us from L.A. to New York to Bangladesh, from the 1930s to the present day, all in just 90 minutes. Stories of immigration are a foundational part of the American experience. Dishwasher Dreams adds a missing thread to our rich tapestry—that of the story of a Bangladeshi, Muslim, stand-up comic and his family’s pursuit of the dream America promised them. It’s an original, hilarious and heartwarming journey and one that connects artist and audience in the type of communal experience we’ve all been missing.”
The creative team for Dishwasher Dreams includes Chay Yew (Director), Yu Shibagaki (Scenic Designer), Anshuman Bhatia (Lighting Designer), Izumi Inaba (Costume Designer), and Avirodh Sharma (Composer/Arranger).
The Box Office is located at 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe; 847-242-6000; tickets
Photos are courtesy of The Writer’s Theatre unless otherwise noted.