Mohammed & Mary – by Sujay Sood
Synopsis: MARY DIXON is an idealistic journalist from the West whose search for unbiased truth leads her to take up an assignment as an embedded war reporter. The war arena is an unspecified mountain/desert region somewhere in the East. Mary is knocked out then abducted during a sortie by a Jihadi assailant, MOHAMMED REHMANN. Mohammed, who has been educated in the West, has returned to his homeland to seek revenge for the “collateral damage” deaths of his mother Farida and sister Alia. He belongs to a Mujahedeen outfit spearheaded by the spiritual leader, MULLAH SALIM. During her captivity in a cave-compound hidden in the mountain ravines, Mary gets to know SAFIYA, a woman warrior, and the p.t.s.d. ZAYNAAB, a middle-aged woman who has lost everything in the war.
A public interrogation spearheaded by Mullah Salim becomes the opportunity for him to voice his philosophy on the conflict between the East and West. Thereafter, Mohammed is Mary’s chief interlocutor and interrogator. Mohammed seeks information on the Western base camps. A rapport of sorts develops between Mohammed & Mary, even as it becomes clear that Mary is indeed the journalist she claims to be and has no inside knowledge to provide to Mullah Sharif’s camp.
In the courtyard outside the cave, three wounded mujahedeens, YUSUF, ABDULLAH, and the blind giant QASIM a.k.a. “AMRIKA”, pass the time playing board games and commenting on the nature of life and war. They function akin to Shakespearean comedic characters. It becomes clear that the Western-return Mohammed is almost as much the foreigner to them as the Western captive Mary.
Mary’s deflation upon finding out that there are no on-going negotiations for her release is soon replaced by fear as she learns that Mullah Salim has bartered her for food and weapons to a vicious, amoral jihadi faction led by Sirdar Haqqani. Haqqaniâ s lieutenant MUZAFFAR MIAN and his bodyguard AAMIR are led blindfolded into the camp. The blindfolds are necessary to protect the camp location. Muzaffar Mian has arrived to collect on the “goods”, i.e. Mary.
On the fateful morning, a wrestling match between the two titans Qasim (”Amrika”) and Aamir ends with the death of Aamir. Mullah Salim has no recourse but to execute Qasim on the spot, for contravening the code of hospitality in his camp. Thereafter, Mary is paraded for inspection in front of the entire camp, and objectified by Muzaffar Mian. She feels abject fear after being told in great detail by a gleeful Safiya of the life of rape and humiliation that awaits her. Feeling betrayed by Mullah Salim’s decision, Mohammed confronts him on his hypocrisy for preaching virtue while practically selling Mary.
Mohammed connives to be on the party that will lead Muzaffar Mian, Aamir and Mary back through the mountain terrain. Dressed for battle, he enters the cave to knock out Safiya, “abduct” Mary for a second time. They head out through a tunnel and towards freedom.
However, these are rugged, desert mountains and with the threat of Mullah Salim and Muzaffar Mian’s people giving chase, there is no respite either. Affinity develops between Mohammed and Mary in spite of their nearly directionless exertions across the mountains. Mohammed is indeed a foreigner in this land, and after a few days of excursion, unwittingly returns to the vicinity of Mullah Salim’s base camp.
There, the ever vengeful Safiya ambushes them, and mortally wounds Mohammed. Mary manages to work a jammed rifle and shoots down Safiya. Mary helps Mohammed back through the tunnel and into the cave of the now abandoned camp. She dresses Mohammed wounds, realizing that his wounds are worse than ever. The mutual affection in their relationship has burgeoned and Mary is clearly overwrought at both his and her predicaments. Over the sounds of war approaching, a feverish Mohammed tells Mary to write down his last will and testament, and collapses to die cradled in her arms, just as Marines barge into the cave. They initially take the hijab-attired Mary to be a jihadi, before recognizing her as the abducted Western reporter.
Setting: the Afghan/Pakistan mountains
Time Period: contemporary
Cast Size: 10
Mohammed Rehmann: mid-thirties, a Western citizen who joins the Jihad
Mary Dixon: late-twenties, a Western journalist
Zaynaab: late forties, a female survivor of calamitous tragedy
Safiya: early thirties, a gung-ho jihadi female
Mullah Salim: mid-forties, Leader of Mohammed’s jihadi outfit
Muzaffar Mian: mid-fifties, lieutenant of a rival jihadi faction
Aamir: mid-thirties, Muzaffar’s bodyguard
Yusuf: forties, a jihadi soldier in Mullah Salim’s outfit
Abdullah: mid-thirties, a jihadi soldier in Mullah Salim’s outfit
Qasim: early-thirties, a jihadi soldier in Mullah Salim’s outfit
Marines: (played by jihadi soldier at the end – no overlap)
This Play Is: unpublished
Production History: Staged Reading – Bayard Rustin Educational Complex, March 2010