You never know somebody's secrets. That's the theme of "Bashir Lahzar", currently on the boards at the Kranzberg Arts Center. It is, essentially, a one-man show, although there's a hidden voice in a loudspeaker and a tween-age girl, this weekend Aliyah Taliaferro, also participating, and the fine music provided live by Farsheed Soltanshahi on various stringed instruments.
J. Samuel Davis plays the title character, who we meet as he is preparing to introduce himself to a class he is to substitute teach. The author of the play is Canadian, so the references to the school systems are slightly different, but that's hardly noticeable in the scheme of things. Lahzar has come to Canada from Algeria because of the worsening political and social system there, and is preparing a place for his family who will follow him.
Davis' Lahzar is a man who keeps his dignity about him - not necessarily formality, but certainly dignity. He finally begins to relax in the classroom, and tries to, a little, with a colleague, but that goes awry. Nobody knows the stress he is under in his private life, just as no one knows the stress his predecessor must have been under to leave her job so abruptly.
The could be a play with all the bleakness of an existential novel, but Davis and his warmth with the children saves it from that. He's doing fine work with this role, complicated as it is. Phillip Boehm's tight direction keeps him moving smoothly from one scene to another, back and forth in time, with an office chair almost another actor in the play. The lights, by Steve Carmichael, work just right to carry the changes on the simple set by Cristie Johnson. Good work from all.
through February 15
Kranzberg Arts Center
501 N. Grand Ave.