By Marcina Zaccaria
On October 17, “Pirira” opened at The Chain Theatre in Long Island City, Queens. The play connects two simultaneous stories, one in Malawi, one in New York. It explores how our lives are inextricably linked across continents, language, and time.
“Pirira” continues Theatre 167’s tradition of producing challenging new plays that shatter stereotypes and catalyze understanding. It tells the parallel stories of American aid workers Jack and Erica as they seek shelter during the Malawi riots of 2011, while in Manhattan Malawian student Gilbert and his gay co-worker Chad begin another day in New York. It explores the way that we are all connected across world cultures.
Director Ari Laura Kreith wants the audience to see the world from each other’s perspective. She said, ““I felt that the questions (the play asks) are huge questions. How do you engage with the other cultures in a way that is constructive? In a way that recognizes our common humanity? We can be deceived into thinking that the challenges of Malawi are very different than the challenges of New York, but fundamentally, as people, we all want the same things. So how do we land on the ground, halfway across the world, with our New York sensibility? How do we make an impact in a way that actually is what someone else needs? And how do we meet someone else from another country here in New York and engage with them in a way that acknowledges the truth and complexity of their experience?”
In 2013, Theatre 167 presented its world premiere of “The Jackson Heights Trilogy.” The trilogy, which ran in rotating repertory for over 30 performances in a four week limited engagement, featured 37 actors in 93 multicultural roles. It explored what is unique about how these cultures co-exist, celebrate, co-mingle.
With “Pirira,” Theatre 167 is attempting to make the play, and the conversation it inspires, truly accessible to all. The intense play is staged tennis court style—with audience on two sides. It is accompanied by panels, talkbacks, and educational events.
Performances are October 17-November 10 at The Chain, 21-28 45th Road, LIC. Additional information is found at the Theater 167 website, www.theatre167.org.