Fate of a Cockroach”, Tawfiq Al-Hakim’s dark satire directed by Ken Sawyer, opened this past weekend to what was, no doubt, a warm reception. The title of the play arouses many questions. What is a cockroach’s fate? Who cares? However, when the lights went down on the CSUN production, the audience started to see a new perspective.
“Fate” confronts those things we see as trivial or unimportant by presenting the viewer with two scenarios. In the first, we see a cockroach king (Matt Hohmann and Danny Ross) and queen (Dana Pollak) consulting their various advisers on the distresses of their existence. Self-absorbed and utterly helpless, the cockroaches run themselves around in circles to find a solution, but in the end they reach no real conclusion. The king’s perilous plunge into a cavernous bathtub is the climactic end to Act One.
At this point, the audience members giggle at the insect’s inconsequential problems. Perhaps they joke about how absurd it is to think that cockroaches have any importance, or maybe the patrons just comment on the ridiculous size of that toothbrush. At the end of Act One we’ve all had a good chuckle.
Act Two, however, presents a much different scenario. A young married couple in an apartment in New York has a quarrel over who gets to use the bathroom first in the morning — a common scene, no doubt. The action changes when the wife (Kristina Bakrevski) notices a cockroach in the bathtub and screams for her husband to kill it. And it is in the remaining moments of the play that the lighthearted tone takes an unexpected turn.
After locking himself in the bathroom, the husband (Hohmann and Ross) becomes intrigued with the cockroach’s plight. Can he simply kill the small insect merely because he is bigger? Or should he instead leave it to its fate? What began as a humorous satire has now become a shrewd examination of one’s self.
Sawyer’s production tugs on an emotional chord held at the center of all of our beings. Are we truly in control of our own fates? The audience begins to connect with the character of the husband and the cockroach. We root for them and cheer for them, but in the end, how inconsequential is it all? As a unique perspective on existence, “Fate of a Cockroach” should cause the audience to question and think, long after the lights have gone down.
Much praise can be made for the execution of this piece. The cockroaches were cleverly costumed and manipulated. The humans were equally thought-provoking and identifiable. Ross had exceptional comedic timing, and at the same time was poignant and sincere. I feel it is important to note that the role of King-Adil (husband) is double cast, and I regretfully was not able to see Hohmann in this role as well.
A strong cast and a well-adapted storyline combine to give a superb kick-start to the theater department’s fall season. “Fate of a Cockroach” runs until Sept. 27. Call (818) 677-2488 or just visit the box office for tickets. I challenge you to examine your own fate, and I will see you at the theater.