The Higher Education of Khalid Amir
nytheatre.com review by Peter Schuyler
July 15, 2008
When the Mad Burka Army drapes the Statue of Liberty in a burka, the FBI immediately wants to talk to Khalid Amir, a political science professor at Colorado State University. Amir is a native of Abed, the same (fictional) Middle Eastern country that MBA comes from, and the feds think he may be connected to the "crime." While mild-mannered openly gay cross-dresser Amir leads a hapless FBI agent on a chase, unrest is brewing on the campus. The President of the University wants to publicly condemn Amir, but the faculty resists, one professor going as far as to say Lady Liberty (and by extension, America) got what it deserved. Hijinks ensue, secrets are revealed...and so on.
The script by Monica Bauer is a morass. She establishes Amir as the narrator, only to completely remove him from the story for the majority of the first act, leaving the audience with a group of two-dimensional supporting characters who are totally unbelievable as college professors, even in the quasi-farcical world of the play. Bauer seems to delight in taking serious issues and lampooning them—which would be laudable if the story ever arrived at some semblance of a point. What she leaves the audience with is a string of loosely connected bits, cheesy character quirks, and half-baked subplots.
Director Craig J. George does his level best with the mediocre script, and with the help of a competent cast and design team there are a few moments that are genuinely funny, but they are ultimately too few and too far between. In the lead as Khalid Amir, Amir Darvish creates a gentle, genuine character that we see far too little of. Standouts in the supporting cast include Alexander Elisa as the uptight professor Africa Webster and Tyler Hollinger as Barry Overdrive, the über-narcissist TV talking head Sam Champion/Rush Limbaugh hybrid.
With the first act running over an hour and the second act a mere 20 minutes long, The Higher Education of Khalid Amir is a largely unbalanced show that starts off with some great ideas. Sadly, the show never graduates.