Sunday, April 13, 2008

Dirt (Under St. Marks)

BOTTOM LINE: A deeply raw and emotional one-man show about an Arab illegal immigrant living with the racist realities of life in a Western's equal parts uncomfortable and thought-provoking.

Dirt is a powerful story, told directly to the audience by a passionate–albeit dishonest–Iraqi named Sad (a solid performance by Christopher Domig). The play is set in Sad's apartment, as if the audience has been invited in to get a closer look into his life. Sad explains his past and why he has moved from the Middle East to the Western world (this location is never specifically defined but could certainly be New York). He also describes the discrimination he faces daily as he tries to live a simple life peddling roses on the street.

An interesting technique is applied through Sad's words; a sort of reverse psychology is used. If Sad calls himself out through the racism he experiences, he also calls out the audience on the racist thoughts they themselves have. It's a useful concept and quite interesting to observe. The play gives a sense (through Sad's raw vulnerability) that those in the minority come to think of themselves as less worthy. Whether that's true or not, by presenting this impression, the audience is forced to think twice about their perception of other cultures.

Dirt's history is almost as interesting as the play itself. It was originally written in German (called Dreck), and first performed in Germany in 1993. It had an extended run throughout Europe in the 1990s, becoming the most frequently performed solo show in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Playwright Robert Schneider was awarded the Best New Playwright of the Year award in 1993 for Dirt from a prestigious German theatre magazine. In 1996 the play was translated into English, and in 2007 it was performed as part of the New York International Fringe Festival. Last summer's production was met with enthusiastic reviews and subsequently led to its current run, at Under St. Marks.

Check it out if you're into theatre that makes you think. Be warned, Dirt is not a calming theatre experience...but it will open your eyes to subject matter that is relevant and quite enthralling when presented in this manner. And Christopher Domig's performance is pretty incredible too.

(Dirt plays at Under St. Marks through April 26th, 94 St. Marks Place between 1st Avenue and Avenue A. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8pm. Running time is 75 minutes. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students. For tickets, visit or call 212.868.4444. Visit for more information.)

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