A revolving door of humorously offbeat yet lifelike characters charmed their way into audience’s hearts during the most recent production of “Where Is Your Groom?” II. The play was staged for the greater Los Angeles community on Sunday, October 6, marking a six-year run gracing stages from its debut at The Players Theatre in New York City’s historic Greenwich Village all the way to the landmark Alex Theatre, for an unforgettable evening of culture and camaraderie.
Similar to the previous 15 sold-out performances in different cities across North America, this production entertained the packed audience while tackling a contemporary subject relevant to the Diaspora. Focusing on the themes of Armenian social norms and the potentially thorny issues of assimilation and mixed marriages, the comedy, which is written, directed, and produced by Taleen Babayan, encouraged dialogue for a community at a crossroads through endless humor and hijinks.
“Every ethnicity and age can find laughter and fulfillment in this play’s professional production and story. Even my young niece and nephew, who are still talking about it,” said audience member Dr. Sharis Simonian. “The play was completely transgenerational, impacting my parents who are immigrants, as well as my husband, a third-generation Armenian-American, whose family members immigrated before and during the genocide.”
While the play takes place in the present-day, it speaks to the universal societal customs and traditions in order to convey a timely message through theater – a notion that Harout Soghomonian is familiar with as a native of Beirut, Lebanon, where he was a fixture in the theater scene during a time when the community needed the arts the most.
“I’m happy to see original Armenian theater continuing in the Diaspora, especially in the United States,” said Soghomonian, an actor, musician, and comedian who played the family patriarch. “It’s important to be forward-thinking in Armenian theater so our voices are heard during critical times.”
By bringing the community together through a multitude of audience members and the 22 cast and crew members from all backgrounds and ages, a symbiotic relationship was created by artistic members that centered on the core purpose of preserving a cultural heritage in the modern world.
“I was lucky to have creative freedom with the character Taleen wrote, and she ultimately gave me something that doesn’t come along that often,” said actor and comedian Haig Hovnanian, who played the role of the Armenian-American priest. “Being able to work with such an amazing cast and crew who brought their talents to life was truly wonderful to be around.”
Echoing his sentiments, actress and make-up artist Helen Kalognomos, who portrayed the wise and au-courant grandmother, noted she had a “great time performing with our wonderful cast and hope more people have the opportunity to see the play.”
This show marked the third performance in California this year, following productions in Pasadena and Fresno, where the story of an Armenian family in America, determined to preserve their ethnic heritage, unfolded. A slew of humorous characters, from the eccentric future in-laws to the hapless ex-boyfriend to the zany priest partake in the themes of immigration and cultural assimilation through satire.
“I’m grateful to have grown up in a viable Diaspora where I was exposed to Armenian theater productions,” said Babayan. “This play not only merges the experience of both American and Armenian theater, it also gave us a chance to learn about different Diasporan communities by taking the production on the road while leaving our own imprint on the genre.”
The clever and spirited production reveals substantial layers throughout its nearly 2-hour performance that brings to light questions about the ethnic experience in America – from all standpoints. Through the stellar cast and crew, featuring Harout Soghomonian, Maro Ajemian, Mariette Soudjian, Helen Kalognomos, Mary Basmadjian, Mardik Iskenderian, Vatche Ghanimian, Henry Abadjian, Haig Hovnanian, Joseph Hovsepian, Chris Kioudjian, Harven Danielian, Liza Iskenderian, Aleen Khanjian, Asdghig Abadjian, Aleen Vartkessian, Arees Setrak, Hratch Mkhjian, Hannah Pollock and Arevig Abadjian, a congeniality and chemistry was conveyed through the script that reflects the prevalent times while honoring the past.
“Taleen is one of the few, if not the only young Armenian-American writer, director and producer of our times,” said Vartan Nazerian, President of the Nazerian Group, a supporting sponsor of the production. “Her dedication to the Armenian family and cultural life are unique and unparalleled. We look forward to more of her productions.”