Nassim is a play unlike any other I have ever seen. When I read that there are no rehearsals and that there is a new guest star for every performance, I was surprised. The only other detail was that there is a sealed envelope and that the playwright uses the power of language to unite us, which intrigued me further.
As a theater actor, I would never imagine stepping onto the stage without rehearsals. My first thought was: "HOW?" My second thought was: "This will either be a disaster or a life-changing experience!"
After seeing the piece at New York City Center, I understand why there is no detailed description. And I am delighted to say that it was indeed a life-changing experience.
It was a journey that the entire audience took with the guest star (Corbin Bernsen at the performance I attended) and discovered every moment of the play with him. We, the audience, were as much a part of the play as Corbin and Nassim were. The play was entertaining, engaging and inspiring as we learnt a few words in the new language together. The point that the playwright is making is very simple, and yet so profound: language unites us, but more importantly, that embracing each other's humanity and culture with an open heart can melt boundaries. Could the answer to all our issues be so simple? After seeing this play, I find myself saying "Maybe!"
In the midst of tragic events happening in the world, here is a play that manages to keep the childlike innocence alive. This is a play that tackles some serious issues in a childlike, wondrous manner and that is the victory of the play. There was a smile on every single person's face as we left the theatre. Not a single audience member fell asleep and we, as a group, were alive, focusing and playing with the actor. I give credit to Corbin Bernsen for being open and willing to go on this crazy ride with us. Nassim works because of the playwright's genuine and candid voice.
As a playwright, Nassim Soleimanpour has managed to push the envelope and give us something so new and delightful that it leaves you asking for more. This format is not new for the playwright, however. His previous work - an award-winning play White Rabbit Red Rabbit - followed the same structure. Unfortunately he could not see White Rabbit Red Rabbit as he could not leave Iran. I am grateful that now he is able to travel and not just see his work but be a part of it.
Nassim managed to challenge my way of thinking and impacted me deeply in that soft place in my heart where my childhood lives. Thank you, Nassim Soleimanpour for bringing your imaginative story-telling to the world and for keeping the child within you alive.
(Photo by Joan Marcus)
What the popular press says...
"I imagine there will be a somewhat larkish aspect to all of the guest performances, since the actors have signed up for a one-night stand. Soleimanpour’s dark sadness, on the other hand, is there every time. The show can be sweet, sometimes almost too sweet, but it’s like the sugar cube in the tea. In the moment that the cute part dissolves, you taste the bitterness beneath."
Helen Shaw for Time Out New York
"It's fun watching an actor sweat. It's also very entertaining, and it happens during every performance of the new play by Nassim Soleimanpour. The Iranian-born playwright has made a specialty of keeping performers on their toes. His White Rabbot, Red Rabbit, seen off-Broadway two years ago, featured a different actor at every performance, many of them major names, reading from a script they were seeing for the first time. His latest work, eponymously titled Nassim, revolves around a similar gimmick. A guest star again reads from a newly revealed script. The difference is that the playwright is now on hand to guide them through the experience. The results are uneven, but at its best the evening is as exhilarating for the audience as it surely must be for the guest performers."
Frank Scheck for Hollywood Reporter
External links to full reviews from popular press...