Failure to Engage
by Élaine Charlebois
Borderland tells the story of a young Navid, a gay Iranian man who has fled his home country in search of a safe place where he can be himself without fear. Along his journey, he meets Zia, the man in charge of getting him safely to his hiding place in Borderland, and Leila, the woman who takes him into her home. Each of these characters is played by Etemadi.
Although the subject matter of this piece is definitely important and deserves to be given much attention, the performer’s awkward delivery and his questionable decision to incorporate song into the piece took away from the show’s strong potential. Trying perhaps too hard to evoke emotion and inner-struggle, Etemadi’s performance often came across as sappy. While the piece did successfully highlight how heavily homosexuality is criminalized in Iran, the lack of cohesion between the events that bring Navid to proudly affirm his sexual identity weakened the effect of the message the play was trying to convey. Rather than adding somewhat pointless details to certain characters (i.e. Zia’s addiction to cocaine), Etemadi should have taken the opportunity to delve further into the dangerous tension that exists between the theocratic state in Iran and the LGBT community. Though the concept had the potential to develop into a powerful piece, the shortcomings of its storyline and character development failed to make Borderland an engaging show.
Borderland concludes today at 7 pm the Montreal Fringe but will also be seen at the Regina, Hamilton, Calgary and Edmonton Fringes