My review of the critically acclaimed one-man show, DIRT, starring Christopher Domig, which originally appeared in Ins&Outs Magazine Vol. II, Issue 10 (in Dec. ’07, while I was an Editorial Intern), was excerpted and appeared on the DIRT official site while it was live.
“Aesthetically, it is simple, but the subject stands out on its own. The lights go down, and a man in darkness tells his story – Dirt – a play about racism and the havoc it wreaks on the human spirit. For seventy-five minutes, the stage belongs to Austrian-American actor Christopher Domig, who brings depth, turmoil, and even a touch of well-pruned humor to the lonely role of Sad, a 30-year-old Iraqi man living illegally in the United States. He sells roses on the street: his name is Sad but he is not sad.
Sad is an Arab living in our city in 2008. He loves the English language, and America too. He is thankful for the life he is “allowed” to live in this country, and is sensitively aware of his rights – and lack thereof. He is careful about what he says and does, to the point that he remarks repeatedly he has never once sat on a park bench in this city. To Sad, the benches are reserved for the people he at once admires and abhors, including the 40-year-old men that buy his roses but refuse to look him in the eye. He resents their behavior yet feels obligated to respect them, and the exploration of this conflict drives the entire play.
Christopher Domig invokes a complex character alive with passion. The play confronts weighty issues, but Sad is likeable – endearing, even, especially during lighthearted moments. Domig guides the audience through the performance, his hands leading his words as his eyes flash back and forth – desperately at times – in search of a reaction. Like Sad’s character, the text keeps you guessing: it seems real and conversational as Sad reflects, changes the subject, lies, confesses and repeats himself – elaborating or even reneging on earlier words.
Sad also speaks without self-righteousness or martyrdom, thanks to the care shown by author and actor alike. Instead, he is a complex human – flawed, angry and at odds with himself as he tries to reconcile his outrage with feelings of duty to be gracious towards the same people that spur his anger. In his mind he is, after all, an illegal immigrant living in a country that he cannot call his own, and he should be grateful for his life, no matter how harshly he is treated.
The play ends, and Sad’s opinions have been left so muddled that no one knows quite what to believe. The final climax is intense, and the audience leaves with heavy hearts yet consumed by thought. They have experienced another person’s life, and the questions about what they have heard gnaw at them while they pick apart the anecdotes, memories, lies and emotions that comprise Sad’s truth.
Triumphantly, Dirt pulls the audience into a fray that forces each individual to examine her own prejudices. The hallmark of a successful production is how it stays with the audience beyond the performance, and for once, it seems that leaving with dirty hands may be a good thing.”