(Above: Clare McDonald, left, and Chris Arreola play the title roles in Yussef El Guindi’s Musa and Sheri in the New World; photos by Jane Stevens)

By Randi Bjornstad

It’s billed as a romantic comedy, but Yussef El Guindi’s play, Musa and Sheri in the New World, goes far deeper than that.

It may be a story with a lighter tone, but it also takes a real-life look at the kinds of issues that arise these days when people of vastly different backgrounds and cultures meet and fall in love.

Or, as director Michael Malek Najjar, theater arts professor at the University of Oregon, puts it, this play “addresses the complicated situation many immigrants face having to negotiate their cultural traditions with their new lives in America.”

In other words, how do people find a workable balance — especially in affairs of the heart — as they try both to honor their old ways even as they try to assimilate new ones.

Veteran actor Stanley Coleman plays Abdallah, who makes a pilgrimate to Mecca, in El Guindi’s play as well as being a co-producer

The play won plaudits when it premiered in Seattle in 2011. Najjar decided to produce the play in Eugene, staging it at the venerable Very Little Theatre, to coincide with the publication of The Selected Works of Yussef El Guindi, which Najjar has edited and which contains this play and four others of El Guindi’s.

Playwright El Guindi set his play in terms of a classic love triangle that includes Musa, an Egyptian cab driver now living in the United States, his likewise Egyptian fiancée, Gamila, and an American woman named Sheri, a waitress he meets and and with whom he falls mutually in love.

In fact, the playwright will be in Eugene the second weekend of the run of Musa and Sheri in the New World.  On Feb. 22 and 23, El Guindi will be on hand at the theater to hold a “talkback” with the audience after those performances and also attend reception in his honor.

The cast includes Chris Arreola and Clare McDonald in the title roles. Other parts are played by Stanley Coleman, Dawaun Lawler, and Brianna Sukomil.

Coleman and Carol Dennis are the producers of the play, under the auspices of the Minority Voices Theatre project. The Muslim Student Association at the University of Oregon will receive 5 percent of the proceeds from the show.

Musa and Sheri in the New World

When: 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 14-16 and 21-23; and 2 p.m. on Feb. 17 and 24

Where: Stage Left in the Very Little Theatre, 2350 Hilyard St., Eugene

Tickets: $14, at the VLT box office, 541-344-7751, or online at TheVLT.com

Brianna Soumokil plays Gamila and Dawaun Lawler is Tayyib in Musa and Sheri in the New World