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1001 takes Arabian tale to modern day Manhattan

July 15, 2011
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Published in Metro

A distrustful king marries a new woman every night, beheading her each morning, but one bride tells him a story that isn’t over when dawn rises. The king cannot resist the suspense, and she lives for 1,001 nights.

This legend inspires Company One’s latest play, “1001,” which remixes a classic Arabian tale with modern settings and an interwoven story structure.

“The action of the play goes everywhere from the medieval Persian setting of ‘Arabian Nights’ to present-day New York City to the future,” says director Megan Sandberg-Zakian. “It has this falling into a well of stories feeling.”

The show examines the post-9/11 landscape in America and our relationship with the Middle East, but without preaching, explains the director.

“We’re both seduced and repelled by the exotic images we have of the East. The play is interested in how that may lead to tension and conflict and violence,” she says.

The set and costumes transform from clean, contemporary, and minimalistic to the lush, palm trees, palaces and romance imagery of the medieval Islamic Golden Age.

Sandberg-Zakian admits that “1001” is complicated. She hints at an apocalyptic event, but doesn’t want to give too much away to audiences.

“As stories that we love tend to have, this one has lots of sex and violence,” she promises. “It’s intellectual, but it’s also really funny.”

Lives intertwined

The play enfolds through several interconnected stories — think of Paul Haggis’ 2004 Oscar winning film, “Crash.” The actors take on as many as seven roles each.

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