ARC Theatre’s ‘Domestic Crusaders’ tackles post-9/11 issues with humor and intensity

Sergio Portela and Sergio Portela

American River College Theatre’s production of “The Domestic Crusaders,” directed by Sam Williams and written by Wajahat Ali, is a hilarious and at times intense play as they get into issues of racism, feminism, terrorism and what is expected of the family in their community.  Although the topics are controversial, the audience should be impressed with the acting and how similar a Pakistani family after 9/11 is to them.

The sets were nice and plain, as they made you feel as if you were in a real person’s home and the lighting to go with it is well done, especially during the parent’s bedroom scene. I enjoyed the interaction in the stands with the cast during the play, especially with the grandfather Hakim, played by Charles D. Souther, during his storytelling and praying.

The cast itself is great. They sometimes had a few slips on their lines, but delivered an overall good performance and made you believe they are a real family. They were funny, serious and intense all when they needed to be, especially Souther who held his own as Hakim. I was impressed by his ability to switch from mad to happy so quickly and, out of all the cast members, he showed so much authority when he spoke and was really able to hold the family together.

The children of the play all seemed to have great chemistry as siblings, especially Fatima and Sal, played by Mondis Vakili and Rajiv Laffey respectively. They are very believable as brother and sister as one would always pick on the other, but still showed companionship as they shared a special handshake to show their bond in certain situations. Bhargav Kothi, who plays the youngest son Ghafur, seemed to struggle with his lines a bit but his companionship with his brother and sister was there, especially when they tried to comfort him over a decision he has made.

Laffey himself was a little over the top with his character, but was very funny. It worked with what he was trying to accomplish and I really enjoyed the comedy in his performance.

The parents of Salman and Khulsoom, played by Brandon Lancaster and Priscilla Esparza respectively, were not as believable as a couple in the beginning of the play, but their scene in their bedroom really pulled their chemistry together and showed their emotional strengths.

Lancaster, who plays the father and head of the house, struggled with his accent a bit as he would sometimes slip into a more Jewish accent. But acting-wise, he was very good especially in intense and emotional situations.

Overall, the performances were strong and made the play and characters all fit together.