Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Studio Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Narges Kalogli, Tara Grammy, Nazanin Nour,
and Maboud Ebrahimzadeh

Photo by Knud Adams
Language is the primary way people communicate with each other, so learning a new language may be uncomfortable because of the ideas and attitudes that may be lost in translation. This is the theme of English, a play by Sanaz Toossi now at Washington's Studio Theatre, which follows four Iranian students and their teacher as they attempt to navigate the challenges of the English language.

Toossi's play, which shines in its illumination of small moments, is a snug fit in the intimate Milton Theatre. The year is 2009, when the Iranian public found hope that the presidential campaign of a reformist candidate might loosen the conservative rule that had come to power in the 1979 revolution. Iranian citizens need to pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) before they can leave the country; the teacher, Marjan (Nazanin Nour), has returned to the city of Karaj after nine years in England.

Afsoon Pajoufar's set, a bland institutional space with a table, chairs, and a VCR for watching English-language movies, is the crucible where Marjan sums up the difference between her students' native Farsi and English: "English does not want to be poetry, like Farsi." She explains the idiosyncrasies of the English language as she leads the students through drills and encourages their halting steps into a new manner of speaking.

Each of the four students has a specific reason for wanting to pass the language test: For example, feisty Elham (Tara Grammy) has passed the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and wants to apply to medical school in an English-speaking country, while older Roya (Nina Ameri) wants to join her son and his family in the U.S. The others are Omid (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh), who appreciates Marjan's choice of movies (he specifically likes Julia Roberts), and Goli (Narges Kalogli).

Through the empathetic direction of Knud Adams, the interactions among the actors are fluid, sometimes combative, often humorous, and on occasion heartfelt: Roya keeps trying to reach her son by phone and comes to realize he no longer wants to communicate in any language but English.

English runs through February 26, 2023, at Studio Theatre, Milton Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW, Washington DC. For tickets and information, please call 202-332-3300 or visit

By Sanaz Toossi
Directed by Knud Adams

Elham: Tara Grammy
Goli: Narges Kalogli
Marjan: Nazanin Nour
Omid: Maboud Ebrahimzadeh
Roya: Nina Ameri