In the past two Fringe seasons, Izad Etemadi has taken audiences from harrowing to hilarious with two entirely different shows that explore the meaning of what it is to be different.
His award winning Borderland, a dramatic tale of a gay Iranian man running from himself and his home, was a hit at last year's Fringe. This year Etemadi has plucked Leila, one of Borderland's most memorable characters, from that play to devote an entire show to her, this one with plenty of laughs.
When Etemadi dons one of the many hijabs he utilizes in scene changes throughout the show and raises his voice to speak in the girlish accent of this irrepressible young Persian woman who lives to please her parents and lose herself in love, he inhabits her character so completely that it's easy to look past his beard.
When we first meet Leila she is recalling the agony of puberty, from unwanted facial hair to the size of her nose, which her parents helpfully suggest could be corrected by plastic surgery.
Soon she is bewitched by the focused attention of the guy next door, Farhad, who prepares her a gassy first date dinner, love bombs her with incessant texts and then, as is often the habit with fickle men, falls strangely silent.
Watching Leila eagerly and then desperately wait for his texts, pretending she doesn't care when she's as hooked on his approval as a puppy wanting treats, put me in mind of Dorothy Parker's famous short story The Telephone Call, about a woman waiting by the phone for a man to ring, heaping all of her self esteem into whether or not his fingers hit the dial.
It's a testament to Etemadi's masterful skill as a writer and director that he creates the scene, using an iPhone instead of a rotary dial, with Parker-line finesse.
Love with Leila treads the oft-told tale of love and loss in a completely unique way, tickling you with plenty of laughs and leaving you with a powerful punch of a message-that the one person really worth loving may be a lot closer than you think.
I dare you not to fall in love with Leila. This is an absolute Fringe must-see.
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