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The Profane

From 28 critic and 95 member reviews
Members say: Relevant, Thought-provoking, Intelligent, Absorbing, Great acting

About the show

Playwrights Horizons presents Zayd Dohrn’s timely drama featuring two families forced to confront each other’s religious beliefs, cultural traditions, and their own deep-seated prejudice. More…

Safe in the liberal fortress of Manhattan, Raif Almedin is a first-generation immigrant who prides himself on his modern, enlightened views. But when his daughter falls for the son of a conservative Muslim family in White Plains, he discovers the threshold of his tolerance.

Bob's Theater Blog

“Most of the characters are vividly written, to the degree that I was eager to know more about their stories. Many of the family relationships ring true…I am ambivalent about the title and a plot point that increases the drama but clouds the message. The set by Takeshi Kata creates two attractive but quite different homes…The direction by Kip Fagan is unfussy. I was thoroughly caught up in the play until the final scene. I wish the author had come up with a stronger ending.” Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"It’s a sharply constructed piece and surprising in its authenticity, but what's not surprising is that, when confronted by the extreme differences of another, we flail and fall back on prejudiced preconceived notions bolstering intolerance...Dohrn had me completely entwined in the conflict as it slowly unfolds in this quick two-act play...But the final scene threw me for a loop...Maybe I wanted a more neatly wrapped up wedding present that showed resolution and a breakthrough." Full Review


"All of Dohrn's characters are drawn with intricate complexity: a web of contradicting ideals, impulses, and behavior — they feel like real people...While Dohrn has convincingly written individuals, he heartbreakingly dramatizes the tragedy of them not listening to one another...Dohrn tantalizes us by revealing narrow passageways through which understanding could flow. He also shows us how easily they can be dammed up in a rush of grandstanding sanctimony." Full Review

The New York Times

"Directed with restraint by Fagan and imbued with uncommon humanity by an impressive cast, 'The Profane' is by turns warm and wary, combative and conciliatory...Dohrn is examining the cultural unease between the secular and the fundamentalist...An emotionally charged secret...becomes the play’s big reveal—a tangled, wobbly moment that doesn’t land with anywhere near the force it needs...By contrast, the rest of the play feels organic even in its intellectual sparring." Full Review

Stage Buddy

"What Dohrn does in 'The Profane' is attempt to dissect the nature of dissent, not only how people who seem so similar are in fact so different, but also why?...Kip Fagan’s energetic direction brings the play to life without seeming overly intellectual, choosing instead to go down the darkly comedic, almost farcical route...Where 'The Profane' truly excels is when it catches its characters, and us, completely off guard." Full Review

Theatre Reviews by John Clum

"We've seen some elements of 'The Profane' before...However, Zayd Dohrn brings a different, fascinating focus to these materials...'The Profane' is a stimulating play, effectively directed by Trip Cullman and performed by a consistently fine ensemble." Full Review


"Dohrn engagingly develops his story without making anyone a villain...The playwright cleverly reverses the attitudes and behaviors of the characters in each family...To Zayd Dohrn's credit, he continues to use the world around us to create timely plays that don't rely on easy happy endings to complex beginnings. Kip Fagan, too, deserves credit for supervising a beautifully staged production and eliciting believable performances from the 7-member cast." Full Review

Act Three - The Reviews

"This one by Zayd Dohrn creeps up on you...Turns out the playwright perhaps could have done a better job of identifying the beliefs and points of view of the characters...Suffice to say that the play explores many avenues and points of view...There's definitely another play in here as there were too many unexplored avenues...I would certainly look forward to hearing the playwrights expounding on any number of the avenues he explored in this excellent family drama." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"Simultaneously one of the most interesting and frustrating new plays to open in the last several weeks...Dohrn provides plenty of crackling dialogue...The bombshell, when it finally drops, is pretty spectacular...But at this point 'The Profane' is on a fast track to its conclusion...Dohrn has planted a great deal of drama in his play, but he ignites only a portion of it...Fortunately, Kip Fagan's direction keeps thing fast, funny, and tense, aided by a cast alive to the play's many nuances." Full Review


“The conflicts that arise when future in-laws meet for the first time have been a traditional source of comedy for both stage and screen. But Zayd Dohrn takes a dramatic twist on the subject...Director Kip Fagan's production is brisk and simple and features a fine cast. While 'The Profane' has a very interesting setup, the text, while entertaining, needs to dig a little deeper to bring out the layers of its subject.” Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"The cast is all perfect in their roles with Francis Benhamou standing out in two vastly different character choices. Director Kip Fagan keeps this show moving and allows this tale to unfold...Though Zayd Dohrn’s dialogue flows, some of the ideas do not...The whole plot seems implausible...Though beautiful, I was left lost in translation." Full Review

Broadway & Me

"The play exudes a heavy-handed earnestness that wouldn't be out of place on one of those network TV shows that like to take on the latest hot-button topic...I agree that a playwright of Middle Eastern descent like Ayad Akhtar or Mona Mansour might have provided more nuance but I don't think that Dohrn's effort should be automatically dissed. The issues of class and identity that he raises are valid. And he and director Kip Fagan treat them with respect and sensitivity." Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

"Under Kip Fagan’s brisk direction, that conflict smolders promisingly at first...The problems begin at the end of Act One when Dohrn decides to introduce a gratuitous twist into what is already dramatically rich material...'The Profane' is nonetheless well acted throughout and, in the shape of Emina, Dohrn offers a thoughtful portrayal of why many second-generation Muslim immigrants today seem inclined to embrace their parents’ faith with renewed fervour." Full Review

Off Off Online

"Dohrn hasn’t strayed far from the formula, which includes parent-child friction, sibling rivalry and the occasional dollop of comical culture clash...Dohrn gets many details right...One senses the playwright’s thumb on the drama...Although the plotting occasionally jars, much is helped by superb acting...And the freshness of two different Muslim families being at the center is an effective hook. If Dohrn’s ambitions outstrip his execution, he still provides an evening with much to chew over." Full Review


“A big, topical, controversy-filled, heaving, seething knot of subjects…Fagan stages beautifully, moves his actors as if they were responding to their own impulses…In performance levels, all the adults, the parents, are splendid, seasoned pros, reach all of the audience right to the back rows...But the young actors haven’t the same strengths, the same ability to project their performances, their crucial performances…They do disservice, indeed, damage, to the play." Full Review

Broadway Blog

“A potentially button-pushing but ultimately unsatisfactory new play…Sorry to say, Dohrn's play, which has some excellent scenes, sprightly humor, and lively dialogue, is superficial, formulaic, and burdened by a plot contrivance that will spin your head faster than Linda Blair's…Kip Fagan's direction is briskly paced but…being so broad, he doesn't resolve the play's uneasy tension between domestic comedy and idea-related drama.” Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Dohrn’s promising but ultimately disappointing drama...Dohrn plots his dramatic tale with meticulous, sometimes too meticulous, detail...For all its potential for heavy-handedness, 'The Profane' doesn’t seem simplistic or contrived, at least not initially...When Dania’s history is finally revealed, it seems like a strained, unlikely narrative. The play, carefully structured to lead to its climax and lovingly guided there by director Kip Fagan, sputters out and dies." Full Review

New York Daily News

"Imagine 'Meet the Parents' but with two Muslim immigrant families and you’ll get something a bead on author Zayd Dohrn’s timely and topical but frustratingly incomplete and unevenly acted play...Things turn ugly — and contrived. And unresolved, which isn’t inherently a weakness, but the drama feels like a first draft. Two fine things emerge: Heather Raffo’s well-wrought turn as Emina’s mother, and the author’s evergreen observation that parents really don’t know who their children are." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"The problem with both the play and Kip Fagan's stylish but laid-back production of it is that the inherent differences don't lead to anything more heated than a brief tiff...This would matter less if Dohrn didn't set the stage for a serious conflagration of competing ideas...The individual characters could be drawn more fully, too...Fagan has directed it all a bit like a sitcom, which can suck the air out of some of the more loaded moments, but he does keep things moving fluidly." Full Review

The Wrap

"Following the first act of 'The Profane' is something of a trial because there’s almost no subtext...Also, many of the performances are pitched too high, as if to compensate for the flatness of the language...Act 2 improves...But after the long build-up...resolution is so hastily dispatched that it turns risible...Dohrn shows little ability to gently introduce a conflict, let it simmer, and then delay its climax and resolution. Director Kip Fagan shares that penchant for instant gratification." Full Review

Village Voice

"Dohrn's indictment of secular prejudice is the most interesting element of what proves to be, otherwise, a carefully staged but overly familiar tale...There's no question that the public needs nuanced engagement with the Muslim-American world. But 'The Profane,' despite crisp staging and a strong ensemble cast, doesn't offer complex insights. Its plot is too cookie-cutter, its revelations too predictable: families and worldviews conveniently opposed." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"Cloyingly earnest...The actors do what they can with an uneven script that relies on pandering to the upper-class white Playwrights Horizons audience, using tropes and a checklist of platitudes...Because the play never specifies where exactly these Muslim families find the origins of their conflict, the play lies in an uncomfortable plane of existence that some will find profoundly universal and that others will find straight-up grating." Full Review

Paste Magazine

“The first act is bogged down by forced exposition…Tolerance is a liberal value but so is standing up for civil and human rights. Liberals are currently fighting over where the balance between these two principles lies, but sadly, ‘The Profane,’ does little to enrich the conversation…While there are many engaging stretches that give ‘The Profane’ momentum and make it fairly easy to watch, I kept craving real tension instead of the manufactured antics on display.” Full Review


"Slight and unsatisfying...As a theater piece, Dohrn's premise has potential but his execution is deficient...The perfunctory ending leaves the audience confused until they realize that it’s time to applaud. Nothing is very compelling. Director Kip Fagan’s staging is basic and doesn’t add much to the presentation...Mr. Fagan’s work with the actors is equally indistinct...'The Profane' strives for topical relevance but is undone by its blandness and generic approach." Full Review

Front Row Center

“It is in the discovery of the secret that this play heads out of the corral for parts unknown…Raif’s rage is at a steady 60 mph from the start, and this is never explained in a way that fills in the blanks. So when it erupts in an unbelievable manner we are left stymied. The actors, to a person, execute their parts with sensitivity and skill. But the story’s path ties them up in knots they cannot untie…‘The Profane’ force-feeds us too much for too long with no payoff.” Full Review

Absorbing, Ambitious, Edgy, Thought-provoking, Profound

See it if You would like a drama involving perspectives of two Muslim families, one secular, one fundamentalist

Don't see it if You don't like plays involving family dynamics; you want to leave the theater feeling happy

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Profound, Great writing

See it if A difficult and relevant topic handled sensitively and beautifully performed by a talented cast.

Don't see it if One of the actors (I won't say who) was kind of a weak link. But only compared to the other pitch-perfect performances.

Also I loved this play. Two immigrant families from an unnamed Middle Easte... Read more Read less

Clever, Edgy, Thought-provoking, Refreshing, Relevant

See it if Culture clash between a secular liberal Muslim family and a fundamentalist one. Which one is more tolerant?

Don't see it if You are not interested in an exploration of traditional vs. modern values, and how people differ from what their backgrounds might suggest.

Also There are many clever parallels between the two families. I was partic... Read more Read less

Funny, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Riveting, Great writing

See it if you love smart, relevant drama.

Don't see it if you prefer light entertainment.

Great acting, Intelligent, Thoughtful, Nuanced characters, Smart writing

See it if Very well-written family drama brings us characters that defy expectations about their beliefs, tolerances, prejudices and vices.

Don't see it if I never say this: at 1:45, including intermission, I thought it was too short. I wanted to hear more from characters following the climax.

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting

See it if if you want to learn about Muslim religion. You can recognize your own religion in it. Universal story

Don't see it if you do not want to think about different religions or culturally different traditions in a family setting

Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Great writing

See it if you enjoy character dramas with a social message.

Don't see it if you're looking for a fun brainless night out.

Clever, Exquisite, Great acting, Intelligent, Great writing

See it if You want to see a great play that takes place today. Very well written and great acting.

Don't see it if You are looking for something with big fireworks. This really challenges you especially if you don't know their culture.

Also I liked everything about this play. I wish I everyone could see this a... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Great writing, Great staging

See it if You like new plays, living room dramas, and family conflict

Don't see it if you don't like new works

Exquisite, Resonant, Indulgent

See it if You want to see a timely family drama that pulls at your heart strings. This play had me at the edge of my seat at every moment.

Don't see it if You not enjoy family dramas about culture clash.

Ambitious, Great acting, Relevant, Resonant

See it if Religious tolerance and immigrant assimilation are of interest, Muslim in this case, and how two families approach the challenges

Don't see it if You can't relate to or aren't interested in the Muslim-specific experience, despite universal themes

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Great writing

See it if you like intelligent plays about real people interacting in real ways.

Don't see it if you don't find thoughtful plays about current situations to be entertaining.

Funny, Edgy, Intense, Relevant, Great writing

See it if you want an evening of great writing and some pretty good performances, too. A new look at race relations in the US. Very interesting.

Don't see it if new/edgy plays aren't your thing. Also, there are some racy topics discussed. Definitely not your typical night of "fun at the theater".

Ambitious, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Refreshing, Relevant

See it if You enjoy family dramas that explore cultural differences (here between 2 Muslim families) with a few twists thrown in

Don't see it if You don't like family dramas with arguing and limited fighting, not interested in portraits of Muslim life in the US or cultural differences

Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Unfinished, Great dialogue

See it if you enjoy seeing a wonderful work in progress, with excellent dialogue, acting, and staging

Don't see it if you have no interest in works-in-progress. An ending that could have been explosive just fizzles

Also This play is frustrating in the way that only potentially great works ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Entertaining, Surprising

See it if You like plays about family values, and couples from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. Characters are well-developed.

Don't see it if You do not like a lot of conversation. You expect a lot of action.

Funny, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Great writing, Great staging

See it if Well written & acted story showing all families - no matter their background - have inner workings with many like your own.

Don't see it if the rites of other cultures isn't of interest

Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Uneven

See it if you like shows about family relationships, what makes it work, what secrets are necessary, and what can be tolerated.GREAT sets and lighting

Don't see it if you want a consistently interesting show. 1st act is excellent. 2nd act is weaker, and the ending just sort of peters out.Still,worth seeing

Funny, Clever, Edgy

See it if If you want to watch a show about two different Muslim families dealing with living in the USA.

Don't see it if If you want something that does not include a story about the immigrant experience.

Absorbing, Great acting, Resonant, Great writing

See it if you are interested in the stories of when believers and non-believers meet and the thoughts and conversations that come from those meetings.

Don't see it if you don't enjoy family dramas that revolve around religious and cultural differences.

Funny, Absorbing, Ambitious, Relevant, Charismatic cast

See it if you want to spend time with an exceptional cast; if you like the "when families collide" subgenre of American realism

Don't see it if you crave eruptive family secret drama; if you don't want to encounter the limits of what you think you know about Muslim Americans

Thought provoking show about beliefs

See it if you like thought provoking shows. It makes you think about religious beliefs, fundamentalism, liberalism, conservatism ideas.

Don't see it if It could be slow at times.

Ambitious, Relevant, Thought provoking

See it if you want some food for thought about religion & its extremes--and perception about traditions vs modernism.

Don't see it if you expect a well-made play. Or HAMILTON.

Thought-provoking, Relevant, Great writing, Compelling, Uneven

See it if you want to see an incisive exploration of the way faith influences our lives, the blind spots we end up with and the limits of tolerance.

Don't see it if some uneven acting is a dealbreaker for you.

Absorbing, Clever, Entertaining

See it if enjoy seeing people react to different views of the same religion. The dialogue was witty and sometimes humorous.

Don't see it if you don't enjoy conflicts due to religion.

Cast & Creatives (14)