American Terrorist

With plot twists and a story line that would make Jerry Springer jealous; under Melissa Attebery's direction, Dick Brukenfeld’s Blind Angels is a smart, political drama that leaves viewers asking, “would you stand there and take it?”

Inspired by Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and killed by Pakistani terrorists in 2002, Brukenfeld gives the audience a story and perspective surrounding terrorism Americans have yet to see. Aaron (Scott Raker) is a news reporter who’s been told he’s about to embark on the biggest story in U.S. history. His college roommate, Sadri (Francesco Campari) and ex-fiancée Danny (Qurrat Ann Kadwani) are Muslims, as well as second cousins, coping with a death in the family. Danny’s mother has been murdered in what is believed to be an American government cover-up. Believing he’s about to pull an all-nighter, Aaron is prepared to stay the night with his friends to cover their story, but is greeted by a stranger, Yusuf (Alok Tewari), and held at gunpoint. He’s forced to give up his computer and any electronic devices, preventing any communication with the outside world. Aaron is now a hostage among his so-called friends.    

The production takes place in Sadri’s New York City apartment where set designer Brandon McNeel, lighting designer Alexander Bartenieff, props/set manager Lytza Colon, and master carpenter Mark Marcante, succeeded in creating an atmosphere that appears comfortable for a hostage situation. Colon must have been an interior designer in her former life; the set was merchandised to a tee.

During a flashback scene, Sadri, a mathematics expert, stresses to the American government how easy it is to obtain nuclear weapons; Senator Kaye Hammond (Cynthia Granville) then labels him as a security threat, slandering his name and credibility. In a more calculated form of revenge for Danny’s mother and to prove Hammond wrong, Sadri, Yusuf and Danny plan a terrorist attack that will wipe out their apartment building and everything within a block radius. 

Purchased from an unknown individual named Eric, the nuclear bomb is housed in the apartment with the ability to go off with the push of a cell phone button. If Aaron even attempts to escape — trying to open a door or window — it will detonate. Aaron plans to write an article that highlights the terrorists as individuals who are concerned about the treatment of Muslims in America, how easy it is to bring nuclear weapons into the country, and to warn their neighbors to evacuate the area. Yusuf and Sadri plan for a suicide bombing, wishing to be the only ones who perish.      

In the midst of a crisis, Brukenfeld gives the audience a look into the individual characters; Yusuf is a “lover of life” that documents weddings, but is so far deep into the plan, his wife and children are in danger if he decides to back out.  There’s a particular scene where Yusuf’s recording his goodbye video, changing the audience’s and Aaron’s view of him from fear to sympathy. The underlining love story between Danny and Aaron sheds light on Aaron’s inability to stick with a decision, but their rekindling is interrupted when Danny tells Aaron she’s pregnant with Sadri’s baby and they plan to get married. Drama!

Blind Angels is full of twists and turns, including a phone call from Eric to Yusuf demanding he kill Sadri; to Aaron and Danny feeling like Yusuf is a threat and poisoning him — the ending is completely unpredictable. The outrageousness of it all does make for light, comedic references, but definitely leaves the audience on the edge of their seats. A mix of race relations, scandal and politics — Steve Wilkos meets MSNBC, Brunkenfeld asks, if the government did something that affected you directly, “would you stand there and take it?”

Blind Angels is running at the Theater for the New City until March 2. Performances are Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. General admission is $15; $10 for seniors and students. For tickets and additional information, visit www.theaterforthenewcity.net, or call 212-254-1109.

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