Language is a funny thing. It's even funnier when Sufian Zhemukhov takes command of it to tell his story of coming to America from Russia and finding out slowly (and sometimes painfully) that the language of love is not international.
He came here for his work as a Fulbright scholar, but hoped he would also find love. Turns out, his expertise in cultural anthropology was less helpful in that pursuit than he would have hoped. So naturally, he turned to episodes of "Friends" for hints about how flirting worked in America.
When he met a fellow anthropologist at a conference, he "felt like Ross meeting his Rachel." The missteps he made are as hilarious as they are heartbreaking. You can't help but feel for the guy by the story's end (spoiler alert: it didn't end happily ever after).
For all his missed cues when it comes to flirting, Zhemukhov is a master storyteller. Despite English being his second language, he understands the power of pacing and repetition. And even when you think you know where his story is going, it takes an even more amusing and unexpected turn. His commentary on cultural differences is as insightful as it is amusing.
Even though the stories feel like a series of thematically related anecdotes, he finds a way to make a beautiful connection between them all in the end. From his self-deprecating humor to his dead-pan delivery, it's hard not to be charmed by this show.
"Flirting Like An American" will be performed again on Saturday, September 14 at 5 p.m. and Sunday, September 15 at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at Geva Theatre: Fielding Stage. Tickets are $18. Appropriate for all ages.