Layla Means Night is a re-imagining of Gamson’s earlier work, created in New York City in response to the 1993 truck bombing of the World Trade Center, and the fear and xenophobia that it sparked. The piece takes as its point of departure the Persian story of a king, maddened by his first wife’s infidelity, who marries a virgin every night and beheads her the next morning in order to protect himself from further betrayal. His last bride, Scheherazade, saves herself, her people and the king from his madness, by spinning thrilling and fantastic stories night after night; proving both her fidelity and the life-saving power of a good story.
The piece explores the continuing struggle between men and women over trust and power, the unreliability of perception, and the problematic nature of translation. Seemingly an opulent divertissement, the entertaining events and beautiful images of Layla Means Night disguise a serious examination of violence, and objectifying and vilifying cultures that one doesn’t understand.
The piece, at its core, is about truth and deception, and the scenic elements, made of curtains, veils, screens, projections and shadows, that are manipulated by the performers, present shifting points of view as scenes are revealed, glimpsed, interrupted, and transformed.
Persian musicians, Houman Pourmehdi and Pirayeh Pourafar, create a score for Layla Means Night in which the music, mixing traditional instruments, electronic and sampled sounds, appears and disappears from sources throughout the theater, increasing the feeling of dislocation and a malleable truth.