Friday, January 22, 2016

Out There: Rabih Mroue

Who is he? Who is 'I'?

How come this is not me, although I am playing myself now? We agreed that I have to learn how to differentiate between what is fiction and what is not, between what is real and what is not. These are my words, yet this is not my voice. This is my real story, yet these are not my thoughts. These thoughts are mine, yet this is not my real story. 

The annual Out There series takes a serious turn this week with the performance of Riding on a Cloud, the newest installment from Rabih Mroue that really doesn't involve Rabih at all.

Instead, the show focuses on Rabih's younger brother Yasser, who was shot through the head by a sniper at age 17 in Lebanon. Yassir made a miraculous recovery and performs this show himself, managing somehow to tell the story of his life without revealing too much.

With abstract and seemingly unrelated videos, audio tape narrating clips of profound text or memories, live performance of songs and readings, and a few other items mixed in, Yasser poignantly ushers the audience through his fear, his consciousness of mortality, his never-ending recovery and his happy life now. It's an inspiring and amazingly unpretentious show, with great focus on what really matters in life - beauty, art, inspiration, hope, bravery, compassion, effort.

One of the most interesting aspects of Riding on a Cloud isn't Yasser's story itself, but the questions he asks about representation as he re-learns how to understand the world after his injury. What is a character, really? If you tell a truth, a story of your life, is it really true anymore once you tell it? Why can't fiction be just as real as "reality"? Who defines what is real and what is not? Are memories that important after all?

The show runs in at a refreshing 70 minutes, and is a reminder that what we see on the news really doesn't tell much of a well rounded story. For every suicide bomber in a shopping mall, there are dozens more innocent children who are swept into the furnace of war. Their stories are the ones worth telling and remembering, and we are lucky that Yasser chose to share his. Riding on a Cloud will follow you home and linger in your mind. It's worth taking with you.

For more information about Out There or Riding on a Cloud, please click on this link.