Play about gulf war to debut at Fells Point Cabaret

April 24, 1991|By J. Wynn Rousuck

You watched it on television, now you can see it on stage. The Persian Gulf war, or, more specifically, a play about it, will make its debut at the Fells Point Cabaret Theatre May 17.

Titled "Saddam," the play was conceived by producer Howard Perloff, who commissioned Philadelphia playwright Michael Elkin to write the text. As far as either of them know, it is the first play to be written about the war.

Despite the title, Mr. Elkin said the character of Saddam Hussein does not appear on stage.

"It's about him, it's of him, his impact, but to bring him on stage I thought would trivialize the matter. It might be comical. I didn't want people to contemplate, 'Does [the actor] look like him, does he act like him?' The issues are the important things."

Instead of presenting an impersonation of Mr. Hussein, Mr. Elkin said the play is "a flight of the imagination, a surrealist drama involving five characters -- one from the United States, an Israeli, an Iraqi, a United Nations representative and a broadcaster."

Although the Fells Point Cabaret Theatre has previously hosted audience-participation comedies presented in a dinner theater setting -- most notably "Tony n' Tina's Wedding" -- Mr. Perloff emphasized that "Saddam" will feature none of these elements. "It's a very serious play, but there's a lot of humor in it," he said.

The two-hour, intermissionless play begins with an American watching war coverage on TV, when the war literally comes into his living room, according to Mr. Perloff.

"The scope of the play is more than the Persian Gulf crisis, it's about the role of war in the world," explained Mr. Elkin, who has written four other plays, won two playwriting fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and serves as entertainment editor of Philadelphia's Jewish Exponent. His syndicated entertainment column, "On the Scene," appears several times a month in the Baltimore Jewish Times.

"Saddam" will be the theater's first all-Equity production. Production stage manager Terry J. Long said more than 100 actors showed up for auditions in New York on April 15, and another 50 auditioned in Baltimore Monday. Final callbacks will be held in New York May 1, with rehearsals scheduled to begin here May 3. Mr. Perloff hopes to cast an Israeli-born actor as the Israeli and an Arab actor as the Iraqi.

Directed by Tim Weinfeld, a freelance director and theater reviewer who is also on the faculty of Western Maryland College, "Saddam" is scheduled to run through June 16 at the Fells Point Cabaret Theatre, 723 S. Broadway. "Our goal is to take it to New York in August and open it off-Broadway," Mr. Perloff said, adding that the play's future will depend in part on how it fares here.

Tickets to "Saddam" will range from $18 to $22.50. For more information, call (800) 766-0028.

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