Constellation: Demands of faith and fame come ‘Fast’

By Wendy Carson

Last week, as I was looking over my work calendar I noticed that Ramadan began. Not being Muslim, I was only vaguely aware of what this meant to the sports world as a whole or the NCAA basketball tournaments specifically. In “American Fast,” on stage in Bloomington, playwright Kareem Fahmy brings us the story of a brilliant young player who has to deal with the ins and outs of this juxtaposition.

This is the tale of Khady (Victoria Nassif), the star player on her college team and a key reason that they have made the NCAA Women’s Tournament. Her Coach (TayLar) feels that while she is an amazing talent, she doesn’t acknowledge the rest of the team’s contributions because she is entirely focused on herself. Boyfriend Gabe (Austin Michael Young), a star on the men’s team, tries to support her but she is so self-obsessed that his will is about to break. Then there is Khady’s mother, Suzan (Haneen Arafat Murphy), who became more devoted to her faith in the past year and insists that Ramadan fasting happen regardless of the tournament.

NOTE: for those not familiar with Ramadan, followers are not to have any food or drink (including water) during the daylight hours of the month-long celebration.

Nassif brings a passionate drive to Khady, showing the struggles of a young woman trying to find herself in life without alienating everyone around her. She gives the character actual flaws and edges just as any college-aged girl would have, yet manages to keep her identifiable if not sympathetic.

Murphy gives Suzan a fiercely protective mama-bear vibe while still keeping herself oblivious to exactly how far her daughter has strayed from her hardline faith. Murphy is able to keep Suzan loving and identifiable without the overbearing bent the character could have.

TayLar gives Coach all the qualities that the position demands. She is fair but just, inspiring but realistic, and just distant enough to allow Khady to stand or fall on her own terms yet compassionate enough to support her when she does.

Young shows Gabe as a true friend, yet becoming tired of being used both as Khady’s personal cheerleader and figurative punching bag. He brings great love and devotion to his role but also the strength to stand up for himself and find his own self-worth.

Director Reena Dutt gives us a new story to help us to gain more knowledge of other religious traditions. The fact that it centers around basketball can aid in Hoosiers’ ability to better identify with the story. Dutt keeps the narrative honest especially in a story that is all about the true costs of winning.

I must note that, going in, I had no idea what the show was about or why it had such an odd title. But “fast” has many meanings – speed, like the play of our young point guard; holding tightly to something; doing without, especially to show devotion. All these come into play during this unique drama. So don’t let the odd title dissuade you from experiencing this tale, a beautiful peek into a different side of people’s “hoop dreams.”

Presented by Constellation Stage & Screen, performances run through April 8 at the Ted Jones Playhouse (formerly home of Bloomington Playwrights Project, now part of Constellation), 107 W. 9th St. Get info and tickets at


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