I am plagued by codes. Computer codes. Safety codes. Genetic codes. And codes of conduct. I am overwhelmed by the noise in my head, the constant buzzing, the crossing of wires and the failure of human connection. Good codes that protect us, bad codes that separate us. But who is to decide which is which? Why are we torn from our human family and separated into rooms of culture and religions? And what do we find when we are forced to leave the limited space of our rooms to subject ourselves to the codes of another room?
Maybe some of the answers lie in Adelheid Roosen's Is.Man that opens tonight at St. Ann's Warehouse.
Is.Man is a raw, 90 minute look into one family's experience of moving from one room (Turkey) into the next (Holland), a story partially based on the writer's interviews of Muslim men convicted of crimes in the latter. The four character production focuses on three generations of Turkish men struggling with the concept of namus (honor) and its impact on women and a society whose laws and ethics do not include honor killings designed to determine the sexual purity of their women and a clan's integrity.
Thoughtfully written and powerfully delivered on a stark stage where one of the few indications of female presence comes in the form dress-like pillars that are hung on actual clothes hangers, the story is played out by conversations taking place out of time and out of context by a grandfather playing instruments, singing and speaking in Turkish, a father writing and lamenting from his prison chair, a mystical Sulfi Imam who silently meditates or twirls his way to center stage, and a son who translates and interacts with the audience as he tries to make sense of his father's familicide.
One of the most powerful moments comes when the father, after having his back to the audience for almost the entire play turns around and asks the audience to challenge the concept of namus for the sake of the children. He urges us, the audience, to join him in chanting, "our children, our children". But the audience, not knowing what to do or say, uncomfortably sits in silence. Maybe this is the code of the theater, or maybe a code of our society to be suspicious of this stranger's invitation to heal our differences and embrace a future that is more humane.
By crossing into to our room we are forced to look at their room through their eyes, actions and words, and in turn, our own room. As our world gets smaller, and more doors are opened, interaction with other cultures and religions will become more frequent and more personal than we might like. Regardless, a code of silence is no longer applicable. It's time to look to a genetic code that knows no god, no cultural, no borders, no law, no hate and no shame. It's time to tap in that PIN and buy some tickets to see Is.Man that will be running through October 14th.