In trying to get out of my reading slump I went back to my old Audible library to see what was hanging out there that I hadn’t listened to yet. One of the books there was Sakina’s Restaurant by Aasif Mandvi. I thought I was getting a straightforward short story not a recording of a one man show, and that effected my experience, I think. There’s a way you tell a story when you are going to be in front of an audience versus when you’re recording on your own; there’s an energy in an audience. Mandvi (Actor, comedian, and writer) originally performed this work off-Broadway 20+ years ago (and won an Obie Award for it). While this recording intends to capture the experience, I think it falls short.
Sakina’s Restaurant tells an age-old story: a poignant tale of immigrating to New York in pursuit of the American dream. In this case it is specifically the story of an Indian Muslim man who goes to America to search for a better life which for him means to become a millionaire. Once in America he works as a waiter at his uncle’s restaurant. It is from that place that we the reader are introduced to the rest of the cast of characters: his uncle, wife and their two children. The work is centered on a man’s desire to give the best to his children who have grown up and ‘forgotten’ their values and culture. The larger themes are of lost and broken dreams, but at under 90 minutes it just doesn’t get there.