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Cleveland Public Theatre’s ‘I Call My Brothers’ rings up a wrong number

As you take your seats in the CPT James Levin Theatre for the production of “I Call My Brothers” you cannot help but notice the stage. It is large and stark with the back wall consisting of brand new car parts geometrically arranged. In the center are more new car parts suspended on wires that try to invoke an idea of an explosion.

Before the play even begins it is in trouble. If the central force of the work deals with a car bombing in New York City then why use new parts as back drop? More effective would be twisted and scorched metal that set up a more believable premise. In essence it is a play that goes nowhere fast (total stage time is 80 minutes).

A car has exploded in New York City but no mention of casualties is made. Amor is a 20 year old Muslim male who seems to be some kind of mathematical genius but at the same time deeply disturbed emotionally. Amor is alone at a nightclub drinking and dancing. His childhood friend, Shavi has left a number of messages about the bombing telling Amor to go home and stay home for his safety.

Instead, the next day Amor takes a call from his female cousin Ahlem (a Muslim convert to Buddhism) who is back in the old country trying to build a bungalow for the family but a vital tool part that she sent to Amor (the head for a power drill) needs to be replaced and sent back TODAY since obviously there are no Home Depot type stores in the Middle East.

Off he goes on this vital mission…a young Arab man…hood covering his head…keffiyeh wrapped around his neck…a large back pack on his shoulders…in other words nothing that would draw undue attention after a suspicious terrorist attack. Amor is followed from his house since in New York City there seems to be a 1-to-1 ratio of police, FBI, CIA, Secret Service, INS and Homeland for each member of the Muslim population. After reporting his every move the “tail” decides Amor does not pose a threat and disengages.

Reaching the hardware store at Times Square (I am not making this up) he is blown off by the salesman who tells him that that particular drill is for limited home use, not to build houses with. Amor whines, cries and tries to play “the brother card” since the clerk looks Muslim all to no avail. While in the store he gets a call from a female telemarketer who is trying to raise money for animal rights. The telemarketer suddenly recognizes Amor’s voice as that “weird math dude from high school” who had a restraining order served him his senior year (what are the odds?). As implausible as this little sequence seems it ends up going nowhere also.

Near the barricades surrounding the blast sight, Amor sits down and calls his former girl friend, Valeria, who has been a friend since infancy. Some time in their teen years Amor saw the relationship getting much more serious while Valeria just wanted to be friends. Amor pursued Valeria to the point of designing mathematical formulas that prove that they should be together. In the end, Valeria gets the afore mentioned restraining order and moves away but they still call each other from time to time to catch up on each other’s lives. Un Huh! Valeria nearly convinces Amor to walk up to the nearest policeman guarding the bomb site and grab him by the b---s. This is one of his closest friends encouraging him to do this!

Needless to say, Amor does not follow through although he tries to convince Valeria that he is going to do it. The rest of the play involves nearly attacking some policemen who are giving a Muslim man and his family driving directions, calls to and from Shavi who is married, settled and a new father giving hourly reports on what the baby is eating (“Peanut ate an entire potato by herself!”) and a conversation with his dead grandmother that meanders to close to the end when the entire cast gets radical with unintelligent diatribes followed by shouting and fist pumping.

This is a work with language, anger, shouting and confusion that may not be suited for all audiences.

The cast consist of Salar Ardebili as Armor; Abdelghani Kitab as Shavi, Salesman and Amplifier; Andrea Belser as Valeria, Amy and Amplifier and Rocky Encalada as Ahlem, supervisor, Tyra and Amplifier. The show is directed by Evren Odcikin from a translation by Rachel Willson-Broyles of the original work by Jonas Hassen Khemiri. The Set Designer is Douglas Puskas with Lighting Design by Wes Calkin. Costumes were designed by Alison Garrigan with James Gillen Kosmatka handling the Sound Design.

While the central theme of the work carries great potential, none of the sequences play out to a logical conclusion. It is just a bunch of brand new shiny metal strung up for all see but there is a disconnect with the audience as fantasy mixes with reality and a healthy dose of incomprehensible shouted Hip-Hop slam poetry thrown in for good measure. Not everyone’s cup of tea...this one.

All main stage performances take place at Cleveland Public Theatre, 6415 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44102. I Call My Brothers performances are through Saturday March 4, in the James Levin Theatre. Fridays and Saturdays ticket prices are $30. Students and seniors get $3 off (weekends only). The James Levin Theatre is ADA-accessible and a features gender-neutral wheelchair-accessible restroom. For tickets and show information, call the CPT Box Office at 216-631-2727 x501 or visit

FREE BEER FRIDAY is every Friday at CPT. Audience members are invited to engage with artists and fellow audience members after the show and enjoy a drink (or two) on CPT!

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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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