Arab-American Nights: New play puts Latin spin on 1,001 Nights

Arab-American Nights: New play puts Latin spin on 1,001 Nights
The Million Underscores

They are bringing the Nights to Sunset.

A Sunset Park theater will take the classic tales of the Arabian Nights out of the Old World and into the New, with a new show opening at Target Margin Theater on June 13. The production, titled “1001Sur,” explores the timeless tales of the Middle East through the lens of a South American bordello, transporting audiences to the lands of ancient Persia through the magic of Latin cabaret, according to its director.

“There’s some cabaret-style numbers, songs from South America that have some relationship to the stories,” said Nicolas Norena, of the Million Underscores company.

The tales of the “One Thousand and One Arabian Nights” is traditionally told through the framing device of a woman named Scheherazade, as she seeks to placate her murderous husband, the Sultan, with 1,001 exotic spiels that end on a cliffhanger each night, thereby persuading the great king to spare the girl’s life and allow her to finish the evening’s yarn another day.

Norena’s adaptation does not do away with that story-within-a-story structure — instead, it adds the bordello as an additional narrative layer, one that features an Argentinian poet relating the story of Scheherazade, who in turn describes the stories of Arabian Nights to her cruel hubby. The resulting triple narrative sees each story injected with the culture of the other, as the poet’s Latin influence bleeds into the tale of the sultan’s wife, who may in turn be telling stories of far-off India, Syria, or even China, according to Norena, who said that the structure of the play reflects how the stories of Arabian Nights have traveled the globe from one people to the next.

“These stories were basically started in China, and were later told in India, then in Persia, and Syria and Egypt,” he said. “The story of the Arabian Nights has always been a story of the exotic, of people telling stories that don’t belong to them.”

“1001Sur” is part of a three-week performance festival “News of the Strange Lab,” produced by Target Margin Theater, featuring several theatrical, dance, and musical acts from June 6–23.

Reimagine the 1,001 Nights at Target Margin Theater [232 52nd St. between Second and Third avenues in Sunset Park, (718) 398–3095, www.targetmargin.org]. June 13–16 at 8 pm. $20.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixs[email protected]glocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.