Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of Hair

Adil Mansoor
Photo by Teresa Castracane
Washington's Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company continues its series of works examining cultural specifics and differences by showcasing Adil Mansoor, who came to the United States as an infant with his Pakistani mother and is now a theatre professional based in Pittsburgh. His one-person play, Amm(i)gone, is framed as his attempt to connect with his mother by asking her to help him translate Sophocles' tragedy Antigone into her native language of Urdu.

Yes, that sounds esoteric, but the result is captivating and enlightening. Over the space of 80 minutes, the audience learns much about cultural interaction, different perceptions of Islam, how each translation of a classical text may add a specific viewpoint to the original author's intent, and whether Mansoor's religiously observant mother will accept his loving relationship with a man.

Mansoor is a warm, welcoming presence as he tells his own story and shares the experiences of people he has known. Aided by co-director Lyam B. Gabel, he has crafted this performance as a way to bridge the gaps of understanding he feels between his mother and himself. For an example of the levels involved here, the title of the work suggests the name Antigone while also incorporating "Ammi," the Urdu word for "mom."

Mansoor explains his fascination with the ancient Greek story of Antigone and why he thinks studying it could bring his mother and himself together. As he explains, Antigone's two brothers died in battle over which one would rule their kingdom; their uncle, who took the throne, decreed that one brother be honored in death while the other would be left unburied, denying him access to an afterlife. Antigone devoted herself to burying her brother's body with the knowledge that doing so would lead to her own execution, thereby leaving her sister alone and friendless.

The multi-layered performance goes beyond Mansoor's appearance onstage to incorporate actual emails and recorded voicemail messages from his mother, including his translations from Urdu. He shares stories of growing up in a family unlike those of his classmates, the joy of traditional holiday observances, and the search for a space where he and she can finally communicate truths that they both have been unable to share.

Set designer Xotchil Musser has created a simple but evocative playing space, framed with wood paneling and furniture in an elaborate geometric Islamic design. Media co-designers Joseph Amodei and Davine Byon bring small details into high relief, specifically with close-up projections of embroidered and embellished pieces of brightly colored fabric. (Mansoor's mother did not begin wearing the traditional hijab until later in life, so he uses these fabrics to cover her unveiled image in family photos.)

Woolly Mammoth has announced that this production will begin a national tour following the run, beginning at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut.

Amm(i)gone runs through May 12, 2024, at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, 641 D St. NW, Washington DC. For tickets and information, please call 202-393-3939 or visit

Created and performed by Adil Mansoor
Co-directed by Lyam B. Gabel
In association with Kelly Strayhorn Theater, Pittsburgh