Theatre Reviews

Garden of The Three

Written and Directed by Iymen Chehadepal_flyer

At Gorilla Tango Theatre

Garden of The Three Shows The Human Side to the Palestine-Israel Conflict

Garden of The Three is an important story worth seeing.  With the Israel-Palestine conflicts constantly in the news year after year, the United States’ direct involvement in the Middle East and our County’s unwavering support of the Israeli government, it would be wise for us to understand all sides of the situation.  In the media we hear about the Governments’ sides; Israel’s government stance calling Palestinians terrorist and the Palestinian Government’s plea for statehood and access to land.  Iymen Chehade’s Garden of The Three humanizes the families and individuals of Palestine.  Chuhade’s objective of this play is “to simply humanize the Palestinian people to the American public.  Despite the occupation and the chaos and death that has plagued them for decades, their unwavering will continues to carry them.”


A simple loving Palestinian family living in a Palestinian refugee camp in the town of Ramallah struggles to keep their spirits up while under Israeli domination and forced to deal with check points, judgmental manipulative Jewish guards and the fear of being blamed for crimes they have not committed.  The family strives to maintain love in their hearts with the guidance of their Mother (Denise Smolarek) and Father (Howard Raik,) Umm and Abu Yasser.  With the exception of the eldest son, Yasser (Mike Tepeli,) they live out their beliefs of acceptance and do not blame their Jewish neighbors for their government’s vindictive actions.

This play takes place in 2002, although very little has changed for the better since then.  The constant accusations and self-righteous treatment from the Jewish soldiers who appear to regard the Palestinians as less than human is disheartening.  The tender moments in the Palestinian household, such as the playfulness of Sarah (Angela Kastenes) with her brothers, is enduring and caused me to ache with her during the gruesome acts that almost break her spirit.  The humanity of the Yasser family made me empathize them and the vengeful acts that they could not help but think is the only way to make things right.  How would you react to the rape of your daughter, sister and/or murder of your son?

Garden of The Three is rough around the edges when it comes to the acting and presentation of the play, but the story is powerful and emotionally riveting.  I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the script.  Each individual character is developed so that I felt as if I knew them, making their laughter and pain an experience I was sharing with them and adding to the impact of the more tormenting scenes.   The interaction and dialogue between them is believable and filled with cleaver humor.  A lack of chemistry between the cast members left some jokes sounding read rather than coming off as the natural quick wit of the character, but they still played nicely and gave some comic relief between the more serious topics.  The humor also exemplifies the lives that Palestinians try to live; like us they search for happiness and find joy in the company of family and turn to their home for shelter from the cruelty of the outside.  There is also an honest dialogue presented on stage where even religiously devout adolescence act like the crazy teenagers we know here in the U.S., flirting, swearing and living through that topsy-turvy time of emotions.

However, even with the stirring drama and tragic ending, the full extent of the play was lost due to the extremely sloppy set changes.  During some of the most dramatic moments, when my eyes are itching with moisture around my lashes, all of a sudden we can see the crew laughing in the background and making set changes causally as if the play was over and the feeling was lost.  It killed the moment.  They broke the sacred 4th wall.

Garden of The Three is a powerful story and if they correct the visibility to the backstage and maintain the play’s atmosphere during scene changes I would recommend the show.  Playing in an audience friendly small theatre and located in a fun neighborhood it is a great way to start your night.


By Timothy McGuire

Garden of The Three is playing at Gorilla Tango Theatre, 1919 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago 6064, performing on Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 7pm, through September 13th, 2009. Tickets are $15; to purchase tickets call 773-598-4549, running time is 1 hour and 20  minutes without an intermission.

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