Reviewer's Rating

Brought to New York by Remote Theater Project and Roots Mbili Theatre, the NYC production of Lines is not one to miss. The play was born out of the friendship of two actors and the generational trauma of colonialism. In five different prisons over the past five decades, Lines delves into the myriad ways in which relationships can be forged and broken under oppression. In a show at once so personal and yet so all-encompassing, there is no stone left unturned. 

Fidaa Zidan and John Rwothomack, each accomplished actors and writers of their own accord, met in 2019 in Uganda. This date is important – perhaps not in the records of history, but to their own personal histories. Lines begins with Zidan and Rwothomack taking us through nearly a century and a half of important dates – Rwothomack and his native Uganda on one side, and Zidan and her native Palestine on the other. The dates of massacres, coups, elections, and resettlements are rattled off, astounding in their frequency and symmetry, along with the birth years of their parents and grandparents (with just as much historical and emotional gravitas).

It’s these long, turbulent histories that inspired the central premise of Lines. While both Rwothomack and Zidan have their own personal experiences of growing up and living under colonialism, what would their lives have been like if they lived fifty years ago? Fourty? Thirty? Ten? They are, as the script notes, “prisoners of parallel dilemmas,” and the past proves to be no different than the present. One at a time, Zidan and Rwothomack craft five different stories set in five different decades in five different prisons, asking the question: what would their relationship, the relationship between a Ugandan man and a Palestinian woman, look like in these snapshots of time?

Zidan and Rwothomack are nothing less than magnetic. They are both brimming with passion and rage as the narrative calls for it, but also with love and lightness for their homes and for each other. Their imagined scenarios from the recent past are powerful, but some of the show’s strongest scenes come from the in-between moments as they set up for the next story. They offer context to the audience with the tone of one speaking to a friend over coffee, and they gently rib each other with such easy chemistry that it’s difficult to tell whether or not they’re on script. 

The stories told by Zidan and Rwothomack are so moving that they will stop you in your tracks, and none more so than the final, closing scene. Though the subject matter of the show is at the forefront of global news lately, Lines is a story that goes beyond any one conflict – it is an unflinching look at the horrors of colonialism in any decade. It’s also a deeply personal story told by two charismatic and talented people who, together, have created a work of theater that no one should miss.

Created and written by Fidaa Zidan, John Rwothomack, Junaid Sariddeen, Alexandra Aron with additional writing by Asiimwe Deborah Kawe

Dramaturg and director – Junaid Sariddeen

Produced by Remote Theater Project and Roots Mbili Theatre

Cast: Fidaa Zidan and John Rwothomack

Production photo by Steven Pisano

Runs through 12 May 2024

La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club