Surely to be remembered as a valuable contribution to the post-9/11 American canon of plays, Yussef El Guindi’s “Back of the Throat” is, like its curiously named title evokes, a thought-provoking and unsettling experience in a first-rate Midwest premiere production courtesy of the Silk Road Theatre Project. It is also at times wickedly funny, a trademark of playwright El Guindi’s well-honed comic instincts for uncovering a laugh in even the most awkward of situations. And certainly Khaled, the play’s Arab-American protagonist suspected of terrorist ties and trapped in an Orwellian nightmare of Homeland Security interrogation gone violently wrong, finds himself in one of those situations. In the eighty tense minutes that follow, the intermittent humor is more than welcome. Multiple and conflicting narrative strands (all fluidly directed by Stuart Carden) and an ambiguous ending make El Guindi’s politics clear: Kahled’s guilt or innocence is not the point—illustrating the degrading experience of being mercilessly prodded and emotionally plundered in the name of our security and this country is. El Guindi provides the rough drama, the audience provides the tough questions. Does the inconvenience of one for the greater benefit of hundreds of thousands really matter? Can militant law enforcement officials really do that to someone via the newly reauthorized Patriot Act? At the very least, witnessing “Back of the Throat” will make anyone think twice before bitching again about having to remove their shoes at the airport. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
“Back of the Throat” plays at Chicago Temple, 77 West Washington, (312)236-6881, through May 28.