In Language Rooms, an Egyptian American interrogator struggles to prove his loyalty to the U.S.A.

By Kerry Reid

Egyptian American playwright Yussef El Guindi is mostly known to Chicago audiences from several productions with Silk Road Rising, including the world premiere of his 2005 comedy Ten Acrobats in an Amazing Leap of Faith, about an Egyptian immigrant family wrestling with assimilation in America. 

Back of the Throat, in which an Arab American man in post-9/11 America faces down government agents who take over his home in an increasingly hostile “investigation,” followed a few months later.

Assimilation and oppression twine together in El Guindi’s 2010 dark comedy Language Rooms, now in a riveting local premiere at Broken Nose Theatre under Kaiser Zaki Ahmed’s direction. Set in an “undisclosed location” circa 2005, El Guindi’s taut and increasingly clammy play focuses on Ahmed (Salar Ardebili), an Egyptian American translator and interrogator, whose lack of facility with small talk seems to call his abilities—if not his loyalties—into question, at least according to his coworker, Nasser (Bassam Abdelfattah). “You can’t just be yourself here,” Nasser cautions. “We have to fit in.