— Photos by Cameron Anderson
I have to confess that I found the narrative of Doost (Friend) mostly incomprehensible. But I enjoyed the evening very much because of the music—and to a lesser extent because of the ingenuousness of the performers and the presentation.
Camyar Chai has returned to his Persian roots to tell a mystical story of Sufism that employs both professional performers and non-professional members of the Vancouver-area Sufi community. With non-Persian cast members, and First Nations actor Sam Bob as a kind of narrator, Doost also embraces ecumenical cultural and spiritual diversity in ways that are hard to dislike. Form and structure, though, is another matter.
I’m only guessing here, and I apologize for any errors of interpretation, but it appears that Richard Newman plays a character on some kind of spiritual quest, and Luc Roderique’s character is also somehow involved. I’m not sure if they are alive or dead. As Chai and co-director Chelsea Haberlin move the large group of performers around Parjad Sharifi’s busy set, we are given what I gather to be passages from the Persian poet Rumi: “Be light of heart; drink the wine of unity from the tavern of oneness.” And so on.
There is also a group of musicians on stage whose performances on traditional Persian instruments are thrilling. Zion Fyah sings a gorgeous version of the title song, accompanying himself on guitar, and Soleyman Vaseghi delivers most of the other songs with power and authority. Since the lyrics are all in Persian, the music, vocal quality and general joyfulness, especially in the choral numbers, are what affected me most. As a huge bonus, Delara Tiv performs a spectacular dance with a shawl that is easily one of the highlights of the show.
I’m no fan of religions generally, but a big fan of the art that religions produce. The heartfelt, sometimes transcendent moments of Doost (Friend) make it an affecting experience.