Kareem Fahmy’s “A Distinct Society” Premiers in Chicago This Summer

Kareem Fahmy’s “A Distinct Society” Premiers in Chicago This Summer

Canadian writer Kareem Fahmy’s new play, “A Distinct Society,” is scheduled for its midwestern premier in Chicago this June. Set around the time of the 2016 Muslim ban, the play takes place in a real building, the grandiose Haskell Free Library, that straddles the U.S.-Canadian border in Vermont. An Iranian family, separated from one another by the ban, uses the library as a meeting place, creating a crucible for various other characters, such as a border patrol agent and librarian experiencing a budding romance. “A Distinct Soceity” was a finalist for the National New Play Network’s 2020 National Showcase for New Plays, and was recently reviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle

The characters include Peyman Gilani, played by Rom Barkhordar, who is making a trek to the U.S. from Canada in hopes of seeing his daughter Shirin, played by Aila Ayilam Peck, who attends med school across the border. Carrie Paff Kate Fry plays a stern Quebecois librarian and Amir Abdullah plays a Border Patrol agent Bruce, who has a crush on her.  A 16-year-old vagrant named Declan, played by Cole Keriazakos, also finds his own kind of unlikely solace in the library. The five characters in the play are all dealing with complicated feelings towards the Muslim ban, but still find ways to come together as a community. 

Egyptian American director Kareem Fahmy, who has been working in New York City for 20 years, explains the background and context of the play, rooted in his own experiences growing up in Quebec, in his conversation with the Pioneer Film Company. “It is by definition now a weird period piece — it’s November of 2017 — but it’s on this universal story of how do we overcome these corrupt systems around us,” he said. “And we’re all living that every day.”  

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