4th Street Theatre
83 East Fourth St. between Second Ave. & Bowery
Wednesday - Sunday through October 12, $20
Christopher Domig gives voice to illegal immigrants in the poignant one-man show Dirt, running through October 12 at the 4th Street Theatre. Domig plays Sad, a thirty-year-old Iraqi rose peddler who lives in a dingy apartment with an unseen Egyptian roommate. Although he is glad to be in America, he can’t forget that he’s not supposed to be there. “I basically love life even though I have no right to live here,” he says, a sentiment that he repeats often throughout the seventy-minute play. He’s like a caged man barely eking out existence in a dungeon, with no past and no future. The first English word he learned was Kodak, and as proof he pulls out a few pictures of his family, his only connection to his previous life. He stays under the radar because, he explains, “Don’t want to attract attention.” He talks about how he is different from the average American — his head is too large and flat in the back, his pores are too big, his skin too dark, his eyes too black. “The longer I observe you, the better I think I understand why you have such a deep-rooted hatred for us,” he acknowledges. But the generally soft-spoken Sad, who harbors a secret about his full name, can get angry as well about a situation that has him lost and lonely, treated without respect and dignity, leading to an unhealthy lack of self-respect in himself. And when he explodes, it’s hard not to wonder what the consequences might be.
Even at a mere seventy minutes, the play does get a bit repetitive, but Domig, who was named Best Actor at the 2007 New York International Fringe Festival for the role, is captivating as he makes nearly constant eye contact with the audience in the small, intimate theater. He moves around Edward K. Ross’s dreary apartment set with great care, waiting for that knock on the door that could take him away. Directed by Mary Catherine Burke, the director of programming for the New York Musical Theatre Festival, and translated from the German by Paul Dvorak — Austrian Robert Schneider wrote the original play in 1993 — Dirt explores the nature of prejudice and fear as seen by a humble man trapped between two worlds, with no apparent way out. It will leave you thinking about the current controversy over illegal immigration and border control and make you examine your own views about racism the next time you see a man such as Sad on the streets of the city.