I recently had the joy of witnessing the world premiere of an astoundingly good play by Rajiv Joseph, The North Pool.Taking place in a seemingly typical American public high school, the play consists of two characters: an over-worked Vice Principal, Dr. Danielson, and an Arabic student, Khadim Asmaan. Khadim is the child of diplomats and has lived all over the world. He recently enrolled in the public high school after leaving an elite local private school. On the afternoon before Spring Break, he is called into Dr. Danielson’s office for a one-on-one meeting.
Danielson, by all appearances, is a dedicated education professional. At first, it is unclear why Khadim was called into his office. But bit by bit, Danielson reveals that he knows about sordid details of Khadim’s past and present; including Khadim’s management of an underground business selling black market goods and involvement in the recent suicide of a local girl. Meanwhile, Khadim also has done his research on Dr. Danielson’s past.
The play is riveting and constantly moves in unexpected directions. It captures the essence of contemporary high school life, political correctness, morality and the legacy of teen suicide. In the end, the play is about forgiveness and living with unresolved issues.
The author, Ohio native Rajiv Joseph, is one of the hottest new playwrights in the theatre world. After receiving his BA in Creative Writing from Miami University, Joseph joined the Peace Corps where he was sent to a village in Muslim Senegal. Due to this experience, Joseph became fascinated with the anti-Muslim sentiment that has swept American since 9/11. Another of his play’s that touches upon Muslim issues, Bengal Tiger and the Baghdad Zoo, recently opened to rave reviews on Broadway.
Adam Poss is simply amazing as the Arabic student, Khadim. His mastery of various dialects and transformation from a simple foreign student to a diabolical mastermind is truly amazing.
Remi Sandri is perfect at the Vice Principal, Dr. Danielson. He is purely believable as the overworked, underpaid, and caring Vice Principal.
The entire play consists only of one giant scene with the two characters sparring back and forth. Both Mr. Poss and Mr. Sandri are to be commended.
The host theatre company, TheatreWorks of Palo Alto, California also deserves praise. Founded, in 1970, the company has become one of the most important birthplaces of new artistic works. In fact, TheatreWorks has produced 53 world premieres including last year’s Tony Winning musical, Memphis. I would not be surprised at all if The North Pool also makes it to Broadway.