The Roustabout’s present the fantastic and moving world premiere of NO WAY BACK, a one-woman show starring Jessica John. Based on the true story of playwright and trauma therapist Mahshid Fashandi Hager, this play tells the story of her family’s journey from Iran when she was a young girl. It’s a play about survival, courage, and the hope of a new start.
Jessica John takes on the task of telling the story as ten-year-old Mahshid, who is narrating the journey she takes with her parents from Iran to Turkey, with the goal to get to Germany. They hope to ultimately one day join an Uncle in the United States.
Written by Mahshid Fashandi Hager, she centers the story through the child she was at the time, and not through an adult narrator looking back on the time. This is a great device for the play because anyone who has ever been around kids knows that they hear everything, even if you don’t want them to hear. Yet because they are kids they don’t bring any adult baggage with them to the situation. A ten-year-old is old enough to be present and observant of everything around them, while also not yet old enough to understand the politics that have put the family in this position. This allows the drama to grow through young Mahshid’s happy memories of playing with family and going to school, to the increasingly confusing, and menacing undercurrents and events that soon have her wearing a hijab, or finding armed men at her family home saying it is no longer safe there.
Once the family finds themselves in a position where they have to leave in order to stay safe the tension quickly starts to ratchet up. The descriptions are poignantly described with the emotional highs and lows that come from a child’s perspective of the changing landscapes, the nerve-wracking navigation of checkpoints, and the exhausting treks through mountains while trying to evade people.
John is a dynamic presence, bringing the story an emotional punch that can felt through the screen. She balances an accent, the mannerisms, and the navigation of the staging and cameras, all while delivering a performance full of vivid energy and immense empathy. Directed by Fran Gercke the pace and the staging keep the performance and the story moving so as not to lose the focus or the tension until the end.
Set by Tony Cucuzzella, with lighting design by Joel Britt, and sound design by Matt Lescault-Wood play with space, sound, and light in effective ways as the journey and the dangers increase. Filmed and edited by Director of Photography Michael Brueggemeyer, along with film consultant Jonah Gercke, and video operator Mark Maisonneuve work with Gercke’s direction to find angles and perspectives to allow John to interact with the camera in interesting ways.
NO WAY BACK may follow a pivotal and literal life or death journey for the family, but it ends with a beautiful feeling of hope.
The Roustabouts also have talkbacks scheduled with the playwright, and also with experts on immigration and refugee experiences for the audience to participate in should they wish.
NO WAY BACK is available for streaming through December 20th https://www.theroustabouts.org
NO WAY BACK
A World Premier
Written by . . . Mahshid Fashandi Hager
Directed by . . . Fran Gercke
Starring Jessica John as Young Mahshid
Producer . . . . Sher Krieger
Stage Manager . . . Jessamyn Foster
Set Design/Props . . Tony Cucuzzella
Costume Design . . . Jessica John
Assistant Costume Design . . . Ross Stewart
Lighting Design . . . Joel Britt
Sound Design . . . Matt Lescault-Wood
Director of Photography/Editor . . . Michael Brueggemeyer
Film Consultant . . Jonah Gercke
Video Operator . . . Mark Maisonneuve
Photo: Daren Scott
Where: On line at www.theroustabouts.org
Runs through December 20th
Running time – 105 minutes
Prices: $25.00 to $100.00
Box Office @infotheroustabouts.org or 619.568.5800
Looking for more reviews? Click here