Headscarf and the Angry Bitch by Zehra Fazal
Warehouse Next Door
Jul 17th at 8:30 p.m.
Jul 18th at 3:30 p.m.
They say: “Join Zed Headscarf on a tongue-in-cheek romp through faith and growing up Muslim in America. Featuring hits like ‘The Only Thing I’ll Do Five Times a Day is You’ and ‘I Lost My Virginity During Ramadan.’ This beef ain’t halal!”
Mike’s take: The future of American-Islamic relations could hinge on this one-woman show. Before Muslim folk-rocker Zed Headscarf (Zehra Fazal) got involved, America’s most memorable depictions of Islam were a.) Lil Kim sporting a hijab and not much else on the cover of One World and b.) that episode of Southpark wherein the boys travel to Afghanistan to return a mail-order goat to its starving family. (And to kill Osama bin Laden, who, in the words of Cartman, “has a small penis.”) No wonder those pious clerics up and declared America’s objectification of women and obsession with dick jokes as deserving of—dare I say it?—jihad! Zed Headscarf, infidel-licking lesbian though she be, really could change all that.
After strummbling through a spotlit ballad about the displeasures of navigating airport security in Muslim garb, Headscarf introduces herself to her fake/real audience as the new employee of a generic-sounding Islamic cultural group whose job it is to talk up the Good Kitab on a tri-county lecture circuit (her first!). Lesson no. 1 is that Fazal, who disappears offstage after her introduction and returns with a dusty Koran that she blows off to nervous laughter, has no intentions of skirting the controversy that defined her 2007 show, My Friend Hitler.
Lesson no. 2 introduces the tension that Fazal whips out whenever Headscarf’s Inside Islam jokes fall flat: Haraam vs. Halal, the bizarre dichotomy that continues to frame the experiences of so many Muslim-American women.
Headscarf defines haraam as something bad, sinful, or unclean, and contextualizes it thusly: “Dude, it wasn’t kosher when you gave my mom a rimjob—that was haraam.” She defines halal as something appropriate, or prepared in accordance with Islamic law, though in all fairness, it’s really just a catch-all for the fun things that would make a jihadist happy if only he could get his mind—and mouth—around a fuzzy navel. (The use-it-in-a-sentence example for halal is much better when Headscarf says it.)
The show is broken up into lectures, at the end of which Headscarf invites her audience to return to the next lecture, and the stage goes dark. When the lights come up seconds later, Headscarf has the look of well, a Muslim woman who has just been scolded by her imam for talking about how much she loves eating pussy. The pattern of apology, diversion, song, and escalation to obscenity provides an easy and enjoyable sense of structure. Due to the close quarters of the Warehouse and my propensity for sweating, however, I can say that 55 minutes may have been 10 minutes too long for me. It’s tight in there, after all, and an hour is just long enough to recognize, applaud, and then tire of Fazal’s affinity for repetition.
Fans of dramatic one-person shows be warned: Headscarf and the Angry Bitch borrows liberally from narrative standup comedy, and much less so from, uh, people who do really serious one-person plays—almost to the point that I forgot I was watching theatre. If she could only trim some of the dead weight from her script and learn how to play that acoustic guitar that she’s always wailing on, Fazal and her show—dark and stormy social commentary included—wouldn’t be out of place on Comedy Central. Like Maria Bamford without the pugs or Zach Galifianakis without the leotard.
See it if: You want to hear someone sing about Pakistani papas bemoaning their daughter’s sexual orientation to the tune of Smooth Criminal.
Skip it if: You are a terrorist.