Last night I watched a play called An Iranian in Heaven, yek irani dar behest, a comedy that was multi-dimensional on several levels. A political, and social satire, saighal khordeh dar tool’e zaman, polished by the years of theatrical and writing experience of two outstanding Iranian performers of our time, Shohreh Aghdashloo and Houshang Touzie.
The storyline goes something like this, an Iranian man in Diaspora loses his life on earth suddenly and appears again in heaven. But even before we saw the man for the first time, the audience began to connect with him and the play; even before the play started. Before there was anyone on stage, there was a voice that began to tell us about the man whose life was in turmoil, the life that came to a screeching halt all of a sudden. At least I identified with him even before he was dead, even before he appeared on stage. His time was not fully up but there he was at the gate of heaven trying to weasel his way through the new system and get the best deals, as we keep trying to do so often in diaspora. He even tried to get his hands on the heavenly lady, get drunk, and smoke weed while at it! Along the way the story unfolded masterfully, and we were treated to a joyous night. Throughout the play, Jamshid, the Iranian man in heaven told the story of his life in diaspora, in a country with a different set of rules that he could not fully comprehend.
Jamshid compared his life to that of his father in the old country. He explained, with great humor, how his father was the king of the household; but Jamshid himself in his adopted country of exile had become powerless, fearful of his wife, worrying about lawsuits, and so on. He even, despite all his fears, was subjected to taking care of a gigantic dog, scooping dog poop, and taking him, yes a gigantic male dog with a gigantic sexual desire, for daily outings. Jamshid’s predicament with this dog received some of the loudest laughs from the audience. Houshang’s body language in regards to his relationship with this family dog was hilarious. At times I was fearful I might pee in my pants, thank goodness I was saved by the intermission.
The universal message of kindness, love, understanding, brotherhood, and tolerance for others was immaculately conveyed through humor and laughter. I admit, at some parts during the show my eyes became wet, I don’t know, it might have been tears, and many others might have felt the same way. In a bizarre way, that is something I enjoy the most about our lives in diaspora, that somehow through all the pain that we have been through we come out more resilient than ever before, that we are still capable of laughing even though the events of our lives tell us otherwise.
Kudos to Houshang Touzie for his great performance, and to Shohreh Aghdashloo for being such a great actress, and kudos to all the people that worked so hard to bring this play to San Francisco.
Footnote: Picture for the Blog Image was provided by Payam S.