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Laugh Out Loud: ‘Im Hussein’ is Back

posted on: Oct 21, 2009

To his close friends and family, he’s Najee Mondalek, but to the rest of the world, he is better known as the broken English-speaking mother, Im Hussein. Back by popular demand, Im Hussein will grace audience members for what will be her seventh theatrical presentation. The comedic play, titled “Shoufou Alwawa Wayn” (See Where the Pain Is), will follow the characters as they face the challenges of living as foreigners in a faltering economy.

The one and only Im Hussein character is the brainchild of Dearborn native, Najee Mondalek. Seeking to evade the strife of the Lebanese civil war, Mondalek immigrated to the United States in 1985 at the age of 19. While attending school, he exchanged stories with fellow immigrants about the conditions of living as a foreigner.

After finding they shared similar experiences, in 1989, Mondalek and his compatriots decided to form a theatre group named Ajyal al-Harb (The War Generation). It would serve as a place for those who had escaped war zones to regularly connect and communicate their experiences through the art of acting.

While they gained some attention upon inception, Ajyal truly made its mark with the 1994 play “Smile, you’re in America”. It is in this play that the exceptional Im Hussein was born. The audience has applauded Mundalak’s bold decision to emulate the mannerisms of an older Lebanese woman; however, many would be surprised to learn that the talented actor simply fell into role by accident.

“Two days before the premiere of the first show, the father of the actress set to play Im Hussein passed away, and she had to fly back home to be with family. It was too late to find someone else to play the role, and of course we didn’t want to cancel the show” said Mondalek. He continued “At the time, the film ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ was a blazing success. It showed actor Robin Williams play an older woman, so I thought about it and said ‘If he can do it, I can!’”

In that instance, Mondalek took to the stage and brought to life a character that audience members simply fell in love with. “I am not sure what it really is that attracts people to Im Hussein. I have been trying to figure it out for years. I think it may be that she embodies the attributes of each person’s mother, aunt, and grandmother. Everyone has an Im Hussein in their family,” said Mondalek.

Debuting in Dearborn from October 29th-31st, Im Hussein will once again entice the audience with her boisterous and laughable persona. And after wowing audiences in the US, the troupe will appease thousands of international fans, as they take the show on tour. As of now, Ajyal has booked shows in Canada, France, Australia, and Bahrain. The world is gearing up and getting ready to laugh out loud— Im Hussein is back.

Ameera David
Arab Detroit