‘Pilgrims’ explores the immigrant experience with humor, humility

  • Written by Deborah Stone
If you’re in the mood for a quirky, sexy, romantic comedy, ACT has just the answer. Currently gracing the theatre’s stage is the world premiere of local playwright Yussef El Guindi’s latest work, "Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World." Full of sweetness with a hefty dose of goofy charm, this new play reminds us that we are all pilgrims or "immigrants" of one kind or another with much more that connects rather than separates us. The story follows Musa (Shanga Parker), a good-natured Egyptian cab driver who’s lived in America less than a year, as he falls for Sheri (Carol Roscoe), a sassy American waitress with a rough edge and an unfortunate dating history. Complications ensue, while romantic sparks fly.

There are numerous cross-cultural misunderstandings and humorous awkward moments as the pair tries to figure out what they want from one another.

Sheri has been burned before in past relationships and though jaded, she still holds out hope for finding a "real" connection that has lasting power beyond a one-night stand. Musa is trying to acclimate to his American life, which he wants to embrace with gusto, but his emotional baggage, which comes in the guise of familial obligations, continues to get in his way. Like most immigrants, he carries the weight of what he left behind with him and the absence of familiar "touchstones" leaves him without a strong anchor or foothold in his new life.

Three other characters in the play help provide differing perspectives on being a stranger in a strange land. Abdallah (Anthony Leroy Fuller), Musa’s roommate who is away on a pilgrimage to Mecca, appears as an otherworldly apparition, espousing his philosophical views and giving thanks for his success in America.

And then there’s Tayyib (Sylvester Foday Kamara), a streetwise luggage vendor from Somalia who questions Musa’s relationship with Sheri, noting the obvious cultural differences and the difficulty they would present in a long-term situation.

The lovely Gamlia (Kimberley Sustad), an Egyptian American, also enters into the fray, portraying a woman caught between two worlds. Seasoned director Anita Montgomery has assembled a strong, likable ensemble.

Parker’s quiet sweetness is endearing and he makes his character’s struggles real and visceral. You can see how conflicted Musa is, as he tries to balance his faith with the customs of his new homeland. Roscoe’s Sheri is brash and neurotic, but under her crass exterior, she has a big heart. We get to see her vulnerability and come to understand that she, too, like all of the other characters is a pilgrim searching for that special something.

Kamara and Fuller shine in their roles and Sustad gives a finely focused performance, providing depth and richness to her character.

El Guindi’s writing is witty and insightful. His dialogue is conversational and accessible, and he spins a highly entertaining love story while giving audiences an insider’s view of the immigrant experience.

"Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World" runs through July 17th at ACT Theatre. For ticket information: (206) 292-7676 or

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