In the enlightened Bay Area, it is almost reflexive to scoff when Rohina Malik says that wearing a hajib — the Muslim woman’s headscarf — is perceived as symbol of celebration for the terror attacks of 9/11 in some parts of American society.
After Brava Theater’s opening performance of “Unveiled,” Malik’s solo treatise on being Muslim, female and religiously traditional in today’s society, a young man approached her tentatively during a “talkback” session. He told her that he was 17 when the World Trade Center fell and, as a result, for years after he hated and feared all Muslims.
Then he said he no longer feels this way and, with tears welling, thanked her for the message of her play. He asked for a hug and she held him for a moment as his shoulders shook with muffled crying.
The memorable moment — while not part of the Malik’s thoughtful, smartly written script — points to the power of truth as powerfully told through the play.
“Unveiled” is a set of five monologues, the perspectives of different Muslim women from around the world. Each bears a scar inflicted by the bigotry and fear of the post-9/11 world.
Maryam is fashion designer who can no longer create wedding dresses because of a racial incident at a friend’s wedding. Noor is a civil-rights attorney helping other Muslim women, revealing that she was raped while forced to watch herAmerican-born Muslim-convert husband murdered in a hate crime.
Inez is a Muslim revert — “Not a convert, a revert!” — who chafes at her grandmother’s assessment of the hajib as a “third strike” after being black and female.
Shabana, an angry hip-hop artist in poor South London, ponders why nuns are accepted veil-wearers and she is not.
Then Layla, from her restaurant bustling with people ending their Ramadan fast, asks simply that we make the effort to know her rather than blind ourselves with the rhetoric of fear.
As a playwright, Malik has created a vivid gallery of leading characters, surrounded by parents and friends, and by racists and criminals. The work avoids the polemic by simply but directly asking: What have you heard and what do you really know?
Monologue is a particularly challenging art form and while Malik is capable and engaging, she has not yet achieved the fluidity of such masters of the form as Anna Deavere Smith.
Produced on a shoestring and directed by Raelle Myrick-Hodges, the production makes some interesting choices with projections and other physical elements that need to be much better executed to be effective.
Presented by Brava Theater
Where: 2781 24th St., San Francisco
When: 7 p.m. today through Saturday
Contact: (415) 647-2822, www. brava.org