It takes so little time to read We’re Already Home, a two-act play that draws attention to both cultural differences and universal semblance between two neighbouring families—one Christian, one Muslim—but the play packs a lasting emotional punch.
Written collaboratively by Saskatchewan’s multi-talented Terry Jordan (who served as dramaturge and, interestingly, also created the book’s collaged cover art), and BC residents Lorna Tureski and Arnie Hayashi, the realistic play was created by the Interfaith Bridging Project in Vernon with a literary goal of connecting characters “to create story in a meaningful way,” and a social goal of connecting people of different communities and faiths “with imagination, understanding and tolerance.”
This play works on several levels. On the one hand it is a realistic representation of two Canadian families, each with a 17-year-old teenager, and how seemingly small matters—like a leaf and shoot-spreading chestnut tree—can irk one person and provide joy for another, but numerous well-placed metaphors and a sprightly “Senklip/Coyote trickster spirit” character, Violet, lift the story beyond realism and give it a multi-textured dynamic. The timeless Violet also serves as comic relief, ie: sweeping the offending chestnut leaves back and forth between the neighbours, and quipping gems like her admission that she’s a member of the church “Our Lady of Fur-till-i-tee.”
The central characters include MS-afflicted Roy Gibbons, a former seminarian who “wound up delivering the mail,” and whom the neighbours view as a spying busybody from his second floor perch, and his open-hearted wife, Ruth, who is keen to learn about the culture and traditions of their neighbours, Ali, Aisha and Sila Ahmed. When Ruth delivers a chicken meal to the Ahmeds and Aisha later confesses, somewhat worriedly, that they didn’t eat it, both because it was Ramadan and because the food was not “halal,” Ruth says, “You couldn’t offend me with a stick.”
The sweet interaction between the teens is especially interesting, as it effectively demonstrates romantic attraction (Jacob has a crush on Sila), and how tricky it can be to bridge cultural differences. When Jacob walks too closely behind Sila on the route home from school, she says “you can’t come any closer because I am a Muslim girl and it’s not proper for me to be alone with a boy.” She explains why she can’t accept the granola bar he offers, and he notices how her hijab makes her eyes “pop”. Jacob challenges his judgmental father, who at one point calls his son “Mister Muslimwannabe”.
I appreciated Ali’s charming hobby of collecting air from various parts of the world and preserving it in glass jars. He says that they’re “history, family, honour to Mohammed (Praise be upon Him)”. The writers effectively gave the characters multiple dimensions, ie: when Ruth is talking to Violet about Roy, she remembers when he wore “Levis and a white t-shirt, very Bruce Springsteen.”
Apparently it was a full house for the play’s opening night: 250 seats filled, and 250 minds and hearts enriched by a play that both entertains and informs, with “imagination, understanding, and tolerance.” I wish I could have been in that theatre.
THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM