THE NORTH POOL at THEATREWORKS is tense and taut

l-r Vice Principal Danielson (Remi Sandri) and Khadim (Adam Poss) in THE NORTH POOL, a world premiere by Rajiv Joseph. Presented by TheatreWorks, the nationally acclaimed theatre of Silicon Valley. Photo Credit: Tracy Martin

THE NORTH POOL: A Two Character Psychological Drama by Rajiv Joseph, directed by Giovanna Sardelli. TheatreWorks at Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. 650-463-1960 or


Midway through TheatreWorks' stunning production of Rajiv Joseph’s taut 85 minute two-hander play, The North Pool, he throws in the metaphorical line “peel the onion” referring to methodically removing layers of the characters’ personae arriving at their true nature. The author does that with surgical precision. It is the superb delivery of the realistic dialog by Remi Sandri and Adam Poss that transfixes the audience as each layer also peels away the facts surrounding a shocking event

Rajiv Joseph's play Animals Out of Paper received an award winning production at SF Playhouse last year. The North Pool has a 6-year incubation period and was whipped into shape at TheatreWorks New Play Festival with the same director and cast. His play Gruesome Playground Injuries is playing off Broadway and his Pulitzer Prize finalist play Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo soon opens on Broadway with Robin Williams in the lead. The author can now add another accolade to his curriculum vitae as this play will surely make the rounds of local theaters and probably move to NY.

Cliches are an integral part of Sheffield High School Vice Principal Mr. Danielson’s character played with conviction by Remi Sandri. ("School pride is self pride", "Pride of work is pride of self", "I am a Shepherd and you are my sheep") Khadim Asmaan, an affluent Syrian-born student who has transferred for unknown reasons from an elegant private school, is summoned to his office ostensibly to give him detention for skipping class. What starts out as routine punishment gradually escalates into a question and answer psychological thriller as Danielsen uncovers Khadim's lies. There had been a bomb threat and in the course of their verbal duel, racial profiling become evident. ("Perception is accepted as reality")

Each character has fatal flaws and each may be responsible for the unfortunate suicide of a female student they both had befriended. Inexorably, as the lies are stripped revealing truth so are the protective layers that hide personality flaws. There is blame to be shared but the question of bestowing forgiveness remains unanswered.

It is a tour-de-force for both actors with Adam Poss winning the Oscar. Whereas Remi Sandri’s dialog allows him physically to dominate the stage while cleverly trapping the unsuspecting student in lies, Poss’s body and facial language during the long minutes he is sitting a chair, convey a plethora of meaning that explodes into action when his inquisitor oversteps his duties.

The play takes place in actual time and could be bore but there are explosive moments and physical action that Giovanni Sardelli directs with a seasoned hand. She varies the tempo beautifully keeping the audience engrossed. Eric Flatmo’s perfect set design adds to the claustrophobic verisimilitude one would expect from a student being sent alone to the Vice Principles office. This is a play well worth seeing.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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