Safe in the liberal fortress of Manhattan, Raif Almedin is a first-generation immigrant who prides himself on his modern, enlightened views. But when his daughter falls for the son of a conservative Muslim family in White Plains, he discovers the threshold of his tolerance. In Zayd Dohrn’s sharp and timely tale, two families are forced to confront each other’s religious beliefs and cultural traditions, and to face their own deep-seated prejudice.
The two families in The Profane are American. They’re also immigrants, as most Americans are or were, somewhere back in the family tree, navigating the difficulties of assimilation, holding onto some of their traditions and altering others, trying to maintain an authentic identity while becoming something new.
The action in The Profane starts when the daughter of super-urbane and secular Arab-American writer, Raif, announces her engagement to the son of traditional, working-class Arab-American parents. Plays about lovers from divergent backgrounds abound in the history of the theater. We all love a happy ending. But most often, when playwrights introduce marriages into their plays, they are looking for trouble.
“The Profane” reflects Zayd’s international perspective, his cosmopolitan sensibility, and his keen sensitivity to the often unspoken dynamics that can unite or divide people from different worlds. It is also, like others of his plays, a story about the sometimes maddening difficulty of being a parent.
“Who are the secular humanists?” Paul Kurtz, founder of the Council for Secular Humanism, asks. “Perhaps,” he proposes, “everyone who believes in the principles of free inquiry, ethics based upon reason, and a commitment to science, democracy, and freedom. Perhaps even you.”