(Adapted from the successful 1973 American film "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" starring Jack Nicholson).
Date of production: 1981.
A neurosis clinic south-east of Beirut (el da7yeh el janoubiyeh or the south suburb of beirut) where a dozen
of patients reside and are treated by a staff of four female nurses and two male nurses and one doctor. Supposedly this is
the infamous "Mustashfa al Asfourieh" which the Lebanese people refer to as the asylum for mad people (Mustashfa al Majanin).
The scene opens on the sound of explosions coming from the trenches between east and west Beirut as the Lebanese
national anthem plays om . An announcer with a husky voice declares that it was the year 1980 or it could be 1979 or it could
be the year 1978, where the general political situation didn't change, as the civil war is stagnating in fixed trenches (al
mahawer al taklidiya). This choice of date at the beginning of the play was taken by many as a prediction by Ziad that the
civil war will continue at least for another 10 years, which it did. The central character of this play is Rachid (Ziad),
self-proclaimed, "King of the Lebanese Street - Malak as-Saha al Lubnaniya" (that is, the smartest streetwise kid in Lebanon).
This guy is hilarious and extremely cool in the American standard. You can never win or start an argument with him. You cannot
even reconstruct what he is talking about. He is so neurotic that he has multi-personalities but non of them are harmful.
Yet there are whims of genius at times. If Ziad deserves an Oscar it should for his role in this play. Then there is Abu Leila
(Joseph Saker) who is in the clinic for treatment from drug addiction. He is a former member of the Beirut - rock band "the
Black Fingers" and his residence in the clinic is like a picnic.
The play is a showcase of many samples: the revolutionary, the religiously-paranoid, the extremely neurotic,
the drug-addict, the scary. For example Edward is hopelessly fearful of Muslims. He does not trust them and he wants to know
the person's religion before he talks to him. Abu Leila, sane himself, makes fun of Edward and teases him by repeating the
Muslim name "Mahmoud" to him many times, and Edward becomes increasingly hyper.
There is Hani who is very obedient and fearful of militias. He is always ready to show you his ID card and permission
to walk away. Any noise he quickly interprets as falling bombs. There is Abed the writer who wants to write a book about the
war and tell the entire truth, the thruth about the conspiracy on Lebanon, but he hasn't started writing the book because
he didn't discover the truth yet. There is Nizar the Important member of "AlHaraki el Wataniyyi" (The National Move) who has
lost hope of distinguishing realty from fiction. People ask him about his future predictions concerning the situation in Lebanon,
and things always turn up exactly the opposite of what he has predicted. Also, there is Zaben who embodies the Armenian people
in Lebanon, this small group who didn't take part in the Lebanese war, and who has been a victim of it many times, the Lebanese-Armenian
(stereo) who doesn't know if he has to consider himself Armenian or Lebanese?
The treatment is rudimentary: simply giving daily doses of tranquilizers to all the patients so they are always quiet.
But when they recover from the pills they are quickly back to quarrels about the political situation. Soon the pills start
losing their impact. The doctor visits and Rachid tells him that pills do not and cannot make a difference for him. As the
nurses start losing control, the doctor recommends electric shocks to the patients. Eventually towards the end all the patients
speak a common language and stop arguing and their parents are allowed to take them home. The play ends with the music of
the Marlboro cigarettes commercial. Ziad reached new climaxes in this play in which he is really telling us that the whole
country has gone mad and that those patients were really sane and their treatment was meant to drug them into submission to
the status quo. As usual, brilliant music and song fills the right places, vocals by Joseph Saker ( such as, uum fut nam (go
to sleep), rajha bi-iznelah (It is coming back God willing),..). "Rajah bi iznelah" is a sticker taxi drivers display in their
cars in Beirut, but the song is using the proverb as a reference to the sure return of the war. Watch out for the brilliant
conversation between the doctor and Rachid, when rachid confuses the Dr. by the question: tamnin w tmanin? (80+80=?), and
that there can't be 160%, there is only 100 out of 100 (100%). here Ziad approaches the idea of having the same group of people
in Lebanon saying exactly the opposite at the same time. 80% of the population wants a new Lebanon and another 80% doesn't
want neither a new Lebanon nor an old one, it just wants to escape: illogical, which means these are the same 80% which changes
its opinion every now and then, "keno rawwahouna".
The Plot Bel nisbi labokra shou?
A comedy by Ziad Rahbani
Comedy: Bel nisbi labokra shou? (What about tomorrow).
The setting is a bar in the trendy Hamra district one year before the civil war. It is frequented by western
tourists and rich Gulf Arabs. Zakaria (Ziad) is the bartender and his wife is the waitress. Both hail from a poor village
in the countryside and both aspire to be city folks with a car, kids at school and automatic washer machine. However, the
means do not meet the ends and both salaries do not suffice to pay for the city luxuries. With Zakaria's consent, his wife
(Thuraya) starts "dating" the clients to make extra cash on the side. Although Zakaria and Thuraya believed that this moonlighting
was discreet, their co-workers and other clients knew what was going on.
It goes like this: Thuraya is approached by a client and she pretends loudly that she has a headache or has
a family errand, and then joins the client to his hotel room. One day, a client from Belgium develops an affection for Thuraya
and starts sending flowers and letters for her at the bar openly. Zakarya, a traditionalist at heart, decides that it was
time out. He orders his wife to stop the moonlighting. Then he approaches Mr. Antoin, the manager, to ask for a raise. Mr.
Antoine refuses the request on grounds that their salaries with the moonlighting (al barrani) they should be allright, in
reference to Thuraya's supposedly secret profession.
Zakarya insists and threatens to resign, so Mr. Antoine advises him to migrate to the Arabian Gulf region since
Lebanon does not have any natural resources and cannot afford having too many people. Zakariya asks spontaneously: How come
Lebanon is affording the likes of Mr. Antoine and Adnan the owner and others like them? Having no choice, Zakariya succumbs
to the facts of life and continues to work. Things get worse as the cook, Najib, points out the behavior of Thuraya. Then
the Belgian lover shows up drunk asking for Thuraya and Zakariya wants to kick him out. A scuffle develops and Zakariya stabs
the Belgian with a broken bottle of whisky. He is escorted by the police and his wife replaces him and continues her extra-marital
activities. Mr. Anotoin promises to appoint a good lawyer to help Zakariya.
The comedy has meet excellent success when shown in Beirut in 1978 and it again warned against the coming catastrophes
if Lebanon continues to operate practically speaking as a whore-house, and where the ordinary citizen is squashed in the process.
While the plot is bleak, the actual scenes are funny and hilarious: take for example the arrival of Ramez (Joseph Sakr) Ziad's
cousin from the village, and his introduction to Christine, a french girl, or the frequent visits by the street guard who
times his arrival with dinner time, the skirmish between Zakariya and Jamil, the Lebanese matcho over the hamburger order.
Many Ziad-style songs are played and are very pleasant (Ismah ya rida, Aishi wahda balak, a hadir al bosta..).
The Plot Nazl As-Sourour?
A comedy by Ziad Rahbani
Play: Nazl As-Sourour (Auberge du bonheur)
Genre: Comedy, 1973.
Zakaria (Ziad) a horse-racing betting addict. Unemployed and penniless, he is kicked out from his house by his
wife and forced to choose a poor-man's motel called 'Nazl As-Surour'.
To his bad luck, on the first night, the motel is raided by two co-workers, Abbas and Fahed, who, armed with
machine guns and dynamite, take the residents hostage. Abbas and Fahed were fired from their work because they were pushing
co-workers to go on strike and they chose to take a "revolutionary" way to change by threatening to blow up the motel unless
the "authorities" respond to their demands of better conditions for workers. The first decision of Abbas and Fahed, who declare
themselves a "revolutionary council", is that they will shoot one resident every hour until their demands are met and they
give the residents a choice between joining the "revolution" or face death (ya thawra ya mawt).
Eventually, the residents convince Fahed that by marrying Sawsan, the daughter of the motel's owner, he could
inherit a fortune which he can use to have more chance at success with his revolution. Fahed thinks it through and agrees.
Amid the wedding ceremony, Abbas and Fahed come to their revolutionary senses and refuse to go along and proceed to bomb the
building, however, the resident have all fled except for Zakaria who has no place to go. Abbas and Fahed do not bother killing
Zakaria, but Zakaria insists that Fahed should at least slap him on the face so that people will say that this revolution
did something. But Fahed has already given up and was unable to do such a thing.
This play was Ziad's first real appearance, which was performed in Cinema Oerly theater. In this play Zaid Rahbani
introduced many songs and brilliant musical pieces that are considered a treasure for the Lebanese and arabic musical library.
Songs like "Nazl As-Sourour ya Fondou' El Mazloum", "Ba'atelak ya Habib El Rouh, Ba'atilak Rouhi" and "Ana illi 'aleiki moushta'
moush ghayri moushta' leiki" and more which was sang and performed by Joeph Sakr. Also, one solemn revolutionary anthem was
played in the comedy to give it its political dimension "Wakfi ma Shaab al Maskin" (a stand with the poor people). Fairouz
was impressed by the song "Ba'atelak" (which reminds us of the period of the late Egyptian singer Mounira Al-Mahdiyya), to
the extent that she retaped that song with her voice after it was sang by a second class singer in the beginning of the seventies.
The Plot Sahriyyi
A comedy by Ziad Rahbani
Ziad Rahbani's First Play
Genre: Folk Comedy à la Rahbani school.
Length: 2:30 minutes, 1971.
A comment on the genre: this is the only place where readers will
find information on the Rahbani genre.
Sahriyé is vantage Ziad work in early impressions from his parents. Loyal to the Rahbani genre developed by
his father Assi in the late fifties and sixties in collaboration with Fairuz (Ziad's mother) and the Lebanese Folk Troupe
(al Firka al Sha'abia al Lubnania), Ziad has written, produced, directed, and composed the music and the songs for this funny
The Rahbani genre is based on a simple story line about country folks who are straightforward in their manners,
whose talk is tongue-in-cheek proverbs from olden times, and who easily turn to music and dance. In a nutshell, the genre
is entirely fictional and unrealistic, depicting a paradise - like Lebanese village where the plot of the show turns around
(for example) the loss of a jar and who took it, and was he a gharib (a stranger from another village) etc.
The Plot Summary:
Nakhlé Al-Tannine is the owner (el muallem) of a coffee shop in the northern Beirut suburb of Antelias (in fact
this was the vocation of Ziad's grandfather, an owner of a coffee shop in Antelias). Nakhlé (played by Joseph Sakr), not only
manages the shop but has a nightly sahra (party) where he entertains the clients with song and music. The formula worked and
customers kept coming back until Nakhlé starts losing his voice because of age. Business deteriorates and Nakhlé demonstrates
his willingness to give up on singing if (a big if) the village comes up with a younger replacement who can sing better than
In fact, Nakhlé's daughter Yasmeen (played by Georgette Sayegh) has a pretty voice and can sing, but apparently
the all-male clientèle at the coffee shop wants a male performer to say the "auf" (a traditional Lebanese refrain).
True to his word, Nakhlé announces a competition to choose a successor performer and asks the waiter Izzou (Pierre
Jamajian), who is also the cook, to prepare a list of candidates. Eventually, several candidates participate in the competition
but none of them was good enough to become the successor to Nakhlé. Suddenly before the coffee shop closes down for the night,
a young man (Marwan Mahfouz) arrives on the scene and asks if the competition is still on. Nakhlé wants to go home but Izzou
suggests that they listen to Mahfouz and get over with it. Izzou adds: "He will not be better than the other candidates, why
wait till tomorrow?". So Nakhlé agrees and Mahfouz starts with a strong "auf" and sings very well. Nakhlé is not pleased that
Mahfouz has proven himself a good candidate, since this was not the game Nakhlé wants to play. He just wanted to prove to
the village that there is no one good enough to replace him so that he can continue as the star of the nightly parties (sahriyyi).
With anger, Nakhlé interrupts Mahfouz and tells him that his voice is terrible and kicks him out of the shop. Fuming with
anger, Nakhlé instructs Izzou to call the head of the local militia to "teach Mahfouz a lesson" (i.e., beat him up so that
he never comes back to the coffee shop to challenge the star status of the old Nakhlé). Yasmeen, however, develops an affection
for Mahfouz and immediately falls in love. Mahfouz lives up to the challenge and returns to the coffee shop with a group of
friends, where he is confronted by several members of the village militia. A fight ensues and the young men use the furniture
items as weapons and consequently destroy the coffee shop. Now that the coffee shop is destroyed and closed indefinitely,
Nakhlé comes back to his senses and regrets that he behaved in a selfish way to remain king of the nightly parties, and then
he knows from Izzou that yasmeen and Mahfouz are in love. He sends Izzou to bring Mahfuz back and apologizes to him and asks
him to be the star of the parties. He also accepts Mahfouz's proposal to marry Yasmeen (a true Rahbani genre ending).
The comedy includes an excellent collection of Ziad's music and songs, and the music theme is especially brilliant.
Watch for the heroic song "Ya Khail al Layl" sung by Mahfouz. Despite the dominance of the Rahbani genre, Ziad's touches are
all over the place. For example, take the atypical candidates who participate in the competition (not your normal Rahbani
operettas characters). Such as the husband of a female participant who gets really mad when people show admiration for his
wife's singing (wleh meen aal aaah ya madam), and the young man who sings a gig of Abdel Wahab and claims that it's his own,
or the man in mourning and who cannot sing until the fortieth day passes and still wants to participate in the competition.
The Plot Bekhsous El Karami wel Sha'eb El Anid
A Play by Ziad Rahbani
Bekhsous El Karami wel Sha'eb El Anid (Of Dignity and Stubborn Folk)
Place: Beirut's 620-seat Piccadilly Theater
You Gotta Have Wasta "Of Dignity and Stubborn Folk" Written and Directed by Ziad Rahbani
ACT I: BEIRUT, 1998.
Syrian and Israeli troops have withdrawn from Lebanon, and the country can determine its own fate. But greed
is ascendant, and mayhem is at hand. In kaleidoscopic scenes, belly dancers alternate with news flashes and fake TV commercials,
while people boast of their "wasta" (connections). When an old Armenian is electrocuted trying to repair a generator that
is the only power source, an announcement is made: " He was the last Armenian in Lebanon - nothing technical will work again
ACT II: BEIRUT, 2003.
Though the country is in its death throes, sectarianism has not expired. Animals join the few surviving Lebanese,
and an orangutan wants to vote. "What is your religion?" the humans demand. Cannibals garbed in animal skin- and holding walkie-talkies
- proclaim a new credo:" We only eat our friends."
In this bleak, gallows-humor play, Ziad Rahbani parodies Lebanese society and evokes the pessimism of Orwell's
1984. The daily "Hayat" notes that "Rahbani is like those animals that feel the earthquake before it happens
The Plot Lawla Foushatil Amal
by Ziad Rahbani
Lawla Fushatul Amali (Malgré l'espoir).
Date: May 1994
Duration : 2:45 hrs
This is part of the third stage of Ziad's developmental style that progressively moved from the traditional,
through political comedy, to the bleak kafkian satire.
First stage started and ended in 1971 with "Sahriyé", which closely imitated the traditional Rahbani genre (see
Sahriyé) of a light story line and a lot of music and country talk.
The second stage of political comedy started in 1973 and ended in 1983, and included his central and major theatrical
works: "Nazl al Surour" (1973), "bel nisbi la bukra shou" (1978), "Film Ameriki Tawil" (1981), and Shi Fashel" (1983).
The third stage of bleak kafkian satire started in 1993 with "Bekhousous al Karami wel Sha'ab el Anid" (On Dignity
and Stubborn folk) and continues with "Lawla Fushatu al Amali (Despite Hope)" (1994).
"Lawla Fushatul-Amali", which played in 1994, at the Picadelli theater in Beirut, like its predecessor (Bekhousous
al Karami), was met with a disappointed public who expected from Ziad the same formula that succeeded in his political comedies.
The play is tense rather than comic. It has several female personalities: Madame Akhlak (Mrs. Morals), daughter
of Mr. Masari (Mr. Money) from his previous play "be khousous el-karami", and Madame Jarthumi, or "Mrs. Bug", a teenage singer.
The play got critical reviews in Lebanon. It was not very well received by the public, although it played to
almost sold-out shows for several months. Many critics argued that Ziad was becoming "desperate" for ideas. Some papers said
that his last two plays were only cries of frustration of an artist who has produced such classics as "Film Ameriki Tawil"
and "Nazl As-Surour".
However, at closer inspection, one is tempted to search for classic Ziad lines in Lawla Fushatu al Amali. Take
for example in the play's end when "Mrs. Kahraba" (Mrs. Electricity with the Zigzag-like head-dress), leaves the scene and
takes the electricity with her (lights goes off), and by the candle light we see that the only person left in Lebanon is the
policeman, played by Ziad himself. The policeman lays down on the bench and says : "at least, we still have fayrouz". He turns
on the transistor radio which plays 2 tracks of fayrouz simultaneously, mixed in with a Turkish version of one of fayrouz's
It is amazing that 5 years after this show, now we see many Lebanese artists singing in the Turkish style (Diana Haddad,
Rabih al Khawli, Joanna Mallah, and Kluda Shimali). Also, the apocalyptic visions spanned out by the play are testament of
Ziad's steady genius. The music is not a traditional Ziad type, but rather is a continuation of his experimentation with "Oriental