Heather Raffo’s Noura scrutinizes the issue of assimilation of refugees into American society by looking at the experience of the title character, an Iraqi woman. Noura (played by Raffo herself) is a stern but loving mother and wife who escaped the ISIS capture of Mosul with her husband, Tareq (Nabil Elouahabi). After setting down roots in the new country, Noura finds that she desperately misses her hometown traditions. Raffo’s play echoes a question that Arthur Miller, in his essay The Family in the Modern Drama, asks: “How may a man make of an outside world a home?” For Raffo, the question is: “What keeps a family together?” The play reveals ways that American life can create isolation more than togetherness.
Secularism and faith square off in Zayd Dohrn’s The Profane, a play that takes as its focus two American families of Middle Eastern extraction. The premise is that a young couple from different backgrounds have fallen in love: It’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? with a 21st-century spin. Dohrn hasn’t strayed far from the formula, which includes parent-child friction, sibling rivalry and the occasional dollop of comical culture clash.