In Play Reviews

Young Omar (Michel Castillo) and Young Cindy (Madeleine Tran) are immigrants, brought to this country at an early age by their parents. They meet on the day they are sworn-in as citizens, and have been together ever since. A few years pass. Omar (John San Nicolas) and Cindy (Khanh Doan) have a special friend called Patrick (Heath Koerschgen), “Rick” to his friends. In the world premiere of Yussef El Guindi’s new play, The Talented Ones, which opened April 29 at Artists Repertory Theatre, the couple have planned a little dinner party with Rick.

Rick arrives early, before Omar is home from work. Alone with Cindy, Rick guzzles beer and gives voice to some feelings he’s harbored for Cindy for some time. He also lets drop, for the collective good, of course, some information about Omar–information about which Cindy previously was unaware. This does not go down well with Cindy.

It’s a shocking beginning, but things only get stickier when Omar walks through the door. There’s the marriage, just for starters. Before we know it, the audience feels as if it is in the middle of that well-known Edward Albee play. There is comedy–side-splitting and dark. It’s a haunting play because the truths are so real and the action so raw. There are the issues of being immigrants. As Cindy says, “This is only really our home if we succeed.” And, there is blood.

The Talented Ones is the first production of Artist Rep’s new play development program, Table/Room/Stage. Launched in 2014, with start-up funding from the Oregon Community Foundation, the program goal was to commission eight new plays in a two-year period and bring as many as possible to full production. Expertly directed by Jane Unger, this is an exemplary beginning for TRS and for a play that should have no problems finding its way into theatres across the country.

“When we launched Table|Room|Stage, we knew that the first commission we offered would set the bar for the whole program: we wanted a writer whose work exemplifies our commitment to fiercely intelligent, nuanced, opinionated, boldly theatrical plays that grapple with the complexity of human relationships,” said Luan Schooler, Director of New Play Development and Dramaturgy. “Yussef’s work embodies those qualities – and brings a healthy dose of humor to boot. The Talented Ones not only wrestles with significant issues, but also is a very funny play about a dinner party gone horribly wrong.”

Once again, Portland has proven itself the perfect incubator for exciting, new, theatrical work! The Talented Ones is onstage at Artists Repertory Theatre through May 21.


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  • Jennifer says:

    What a fine review of an excellent new play. I was impressed by the writing, the acting, the uncomfortable arguments and then finding myself laughing. Thanks for this review!

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