Morocco, Trap Door Theatre. It’s evident from the get-go where playwright Allan Havis’s allegiances lie in this 1986 meditation on Arab-Jewish relations. Tightly wound Jewish-American architect Kempler acquits himself rather nicely in the play’s finale while the Colonel–the Moroccan counterpart of Jacques Tati’s Mr. Hulot–plays the part of the buffoon, countering Kempler’s heartfelt pleas with a string of pitiless one-liners. God bless the USA is Morocco’s blunt message, and God help any country that dares to imprison our women on trumped-up charges of prostitution.

But misogyny ranks as high as paternalism and nationalism on the list of Havis’s sins. Though there are three sides to this story, Kempler’s wife–a free-spirited Gypsy–barely gets to tell hers. And while Havis paints a skillful portrait of the tensions between Kempler and the Colonel, he deals almost entirely in surface textures. “Philosophy can only make a man alcoholic,” comments the Colonel at play’s end, and indeed, sentiment seems to triumph over ideas at every juncture.

Director Jeff Ginsberg juggles Havis’s script like a hot potato: he manages to establish a somber tone throughout but fails to transform Havis’s one-sided commentary into a multidimensional drama. Bill Bannon, Rom Barkhordar, and Susy Ibrahim deliver spirited performances, but all of Trap Door’s high-minded efforts have been wasted on a work this disjointed and inconsequential.

–Nick Green