Written and directed by Amin Shirazi. Until July 16 at Tarragon Theater Extraspace, 30 Bridgman Ave. fringetoronto.com and 416-966-1062.
The voices of doubt eat away at the mind.
In the head of Arman (Aylin Oyan Salahshoor), the seven-year-old protagonist at the center of “9428,” they manifest in the form of a shape-shifting, anthropomorphic immigration monster. Less of a demon and more of a jocky schoolyard bully, the creature badgers the young girl — interrogating her about her family’s decision to migrate from Iran to Toronto, and if it was the right choice.
Will she see her aging grandfather again? Will her cousins and childhood friends remember her? Will Canada, a country to which she feels no connection, ever become home?
Playwright Amin Shirazi’s “9428,” winner of the Toronto Fringe Festival’s New Play Prize, threads these questions into a potentially poetic slice-of-life story on migration, told through the eyes of a precocious young child.
Salahshoor provides a riveting central performance as the reserved girl, lost in a new world with a foreign language and a seemingly impenetrable culture. Parsa Hassanzadeh, Shadi Karimpour and Sina Sasanifard are equally compelling in a variety of roles, including as Arman’s distant parents, overly-inquisitive school peers and the immigration monster hiding in her closet. (Actor Parnian Pourzahed missed the performance I attended, but her roles were seamlessly absorbed by the other three actors in the ensemble.)
Shirazi’s directorial vision is sharp, bringing the color and humor in his script to glorious life. You need not look further than the prologue. Not a word is spoken in the first 10 minutes, but Shirazi’s near-perfect depiction of Arman’s journey to Canada packs an emotional punch; it transported me back to the day, as a five-year-old, when I stepped on a one-way flight to Canada.
Still, “9428” could be more finely tuned. While Arman’s character is so well-drawn, the roles of her parents and those around her come off as one-dimensional caricatures. It makes sense, in a way, since that’s how Arman sees them and the audience is, for the most part, in her head. But further exploring the stories of those around Arman, particularly that of her parents, would add more depth to this already compelling play.
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