Morocco, Trap Door Theatre. It's evident from the get-go where playwright Allan Havis's allegiances lie in this 1986 meditation on Arab-Jewish relations. Tightly wound Jewish-American architect Kempler acquits himself rather nicely in the play's finale while the Colonel--the Moroccan counterpart of Jacques Tati's Mr. Hulot--plays the part of the buffoon, countering Kempler's heartfelt pleas with a string of pitiless one-liners. God bless the USA is Morocco's blunt message, and God help any country that dares to imprison our women on trumped-up charges of prostitution.
But misogyny ranks as high as paternalism and nationalism on the list of Havis's sins. Though there are three sides to this story, Kempler's wife--a free-spirited Gypsy--barely gets to tell hers. And while Havis paints a skillful portrait of the tensions between Kempler and the Colonel, he deals almost entirely in surface textures. "Philosophy can only make a man alcoholic," comments the Colonel at play's end, and indeed, sentiment seems to triumph over ideas at every juncture.
Director Jeff Ginsberg juggles Havis's script like a hot potato: he manages to establish a somber tone throughout but fails to transform Havis's one-sided commentary into a multidimensional drama. Bill Bannon, Rom Barkhordar, and Susy Ibrahim deliver spirited performances, but all of Trap Door's high-minded efforts have been wasted on a work this disjointed and inconsequential.