REVIEW: “Bismillah, or In The Name of God” —THE WAYWARD ARTISTS

Is It Ever Too Late To Love Unconditionally?


Opening the inaugural season of Wayward Voices is "Bismillah, or In the Name of God," written by Nakisa Aschtiani. "Bismillah" tells the story of long-time Iranian-American friends questioning their beliefs and fighting for change after a bar shooting changes their lives forever. Aschtiani poses the question, "is it ever too late to love unconditionally?" Director Ani Marderosian is at the helm of the production. With the goal of amplifying the story and poignant language, Marderosian and the cast of "Bismillah" reinvent this story for an audio-only experience. The immersive radio play will stream online on February 5-14, 2021, and is free to the public.


Playwright Nakisa Aschtiani is an Iranian-American playwright based in Orange County, CA. Previous writing work includes “Children of Camelot,” an alternate reality play about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which was produced at the Connelly Theater in New York City in 2017. Aschtiani also serves on the board of directors for She NYC Arts, a nonprofit organization working to uplift female and femme-identifying theater artists around the country. When asked about her motivation behind “Bismillah,” the playwright says “I grew up in an Iranian Family, and I wanted people to know that, when it comes down to it, at the core of it, I wasn't raised that differently from the next kid. As an adult, people asked me a lot of questions about what it was like, I think, because they associated culture with religion. We weren't a religious family. I wanted to show people we had more in common than we thought.”


The cast of “Bismillah, or In the Name of God” includes Diona Burnett as Bahar Ohftahb, Neev Bar-David as Darius Shirazi, John “Rusty” Proctor as Nima Ohftahb, Lanna Joffrey as Mozhghan Ohftahb, Nasi Nassiri-Olender as Nasmine Oliver, Steven Alonte as Mohammed Shirazi, and Joette Waters as Fatima Shirazi. “Bismillah, or In the Name of God” will be accessible on the Wayward Artist’s website at https://www.thewaywardartist.org/bismillah.


The Wayward Artist is committed to the safety and well-being of patrons and audience members and warns this production includes language and topics of hate crimes, LGBTQ+ discrimination, suicide, and death, listener discretion is advised.


Having collaborated in the past, Director Marderosian and Ms. Aschtiani are joining forces for the third time. The Scenie Award-winning actor and director is an alum of California State University, Fullerton and currently works for Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre. Previous directing credits include “Witness for the Prosecution,” “Wonder of the World,” and “The First and the Last” which won the Encore Producer’s Award in 2018. Ms. Marderosian also serves as sound engineer. Additionally, the production team includes assistant director Rani Shori. Craig Tyrl is the Artistic Director of Wayward Artists; Mauri Anne Smith is Managing Director.


Led by resident artists, Reed Flores and Chris Henrriquez, Wayward Voices is an initiative created by and for artists of color. This entirely free virtual season features four mainstage productions created and devised by BIPOC artists from around the country telling stories of culture, identity, religion and love.


Chris Daniels

Arts & Entertainment Reviewer

The Show Report