An intimate queer quest for self in ‘Amm(i)gone’ at Woolly Mammoth

An intellectual script, powerful language, and a dynamic performance make this autobiographical solo show a moving and awe-inspiring experience.

By Lucille Rieke

Amm(i)gone may seem daunting to pronounce, but as creator and performer Adil Mansoor assures the audience merely five minutes into his show, there is no way to mispronounce it. To him, it is AHM-ee-gawn; to others, it is ah-MEE-guh-nee. This freedom of pronunciation sets the tone for the rest of the piece: a freedom of interpretation, expression, and connection is instilled and welcomed in the very fiber of the performance.

Adil Mansoor in ‘Amm(i)gone.’ Photo by Teresa Castracane.

Amm(i)gone at Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Penn Quarter is a verbal conversation, some could say ongoing soliloquy, between Mansoor and the audience. It is centered around his experience asking his mother to translate Sophocles’ Antigone into his and his mother’s first language, Urdu. However, throughout his retelling of this story, we learn much more about Mansoor: his identity as a queer man, his experience growing up in Chicago as a Pakistani immigrant, and his relationship with his Muslim mother as she grapples with his identity. More than an explanation of how to translate Antigone, it becomes an exploration of how to navigate complicated relationships — ultimately posing, and accepting the lack of an answer to, the question How can I be my fullest self around others?

An intellectual script, powerful language, and a dynamic performance make the piece a moving and awe-inspiring experience. The show asks profound questions of the audience in a way that makes us feel intricately crucial to its success. Mansoor commands the stage, in complete control and ownership of the narrative, while leaving room for open expression and reaction from his audience, a master class in present and generous performance.

In this self-biographical and philosophical piece, Mansoor is cast as himself: Adil Mansoor. Though the rehearsal, direction, time, and effort put into the piece are evident, in a brilliant way, it never feels as though Mansoor is performing. We feel he is simply existing, and that is the best type of acting. Inside Woolly Mammoth’s modern theater, it feels remarkably intimate to be sharing the space with Mansoor, less like watching him from the audience as he is onstage and much more as though we are guests in his living room. A familiarity and understanding between audience and performer is created through the set, script, and amicability of Mansoor.

Though much of the piece is birthed from the genius and artistry of Mansoor, the show’s success is made possible with the support of his creative and production team. Co-director Lyam B. Gabel aids Mansoor in bringing the richness of the story to an animated stage, aptly described as “meticulous” by Maria Manuela Goyanes, artistic director of Woolly, during her opening night speech.

Adil Mansoor in ‘Amm(i)gone.’ Photo by Teresa Castracane.

The technical elements are interwoven into the story, becoming the ensemble of this one-man show and bolstering the performance. The technical expertise of Media Co-designers Joseph Amodei and Davine Byon creates a seamless connection between the projections on the screen behind Mansoor and the words he speaks in real-time. Through a live overhead projection camera on stage, Mansoor shows photographs and fabrics, his hands illuminated under the light as the images appear on screen. Sound Designer Aaron Landgraf expertly layers into the storyline audio recordings of conversations between Mansoor and his mother, allowing us to glimpse into their relationship.

Set and Lighting Designer Xotchil Musser created a beautifully decorative stage with wooden set pieces framing the space, each carved in ornate mandala patterns. Additionally, lighting choices bring the show’s natural ambiance to life, opening with a lavender hue to set a tone of wonder and passion and closing with an orange glow, like a sunset.

Adil Mansoor in ‘Amm(i)gone.’ Photo by Teresa Castracane.

The final moment is incredibly captivating: the projections cease, the lights dim, and wooden lanterns hung throughout the space light up, silhouetting Mansoor as he sits with his back to us, listening to “Alif Lam Meem,” a lilting melody of three untranslatable Arabic words composed by Shahzad Ismaily and Aya Abdelaziz.

The production shines bright and connects deeply, as all good theater does. The audience’s chuckles, oohs, aahs, and mhmms are evidence of its impact. The issues that Mansoor sifts through hit home with much of the world today, adding to the connection the piece creates.

As the show lives on in history when the Urdu translation of Antigone makes its way into the world, we can say we saw the play about its conception, Amm(i)gone. A story grounded in passion and desire. Passion for love, language, and Antigone. Desire for connection, acceptance, and translatability.

Running Time: 80 minutes with no intermission.

Amm(i)gone (presented by Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company with the Washington Blade in association with Kelly Strayhorn Theater) plays through May 12, 2024, at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, 641 D St NW, Washington, DC,  Tickets ($60–$80 with limited Pay-What-You-Can tickets) can be purchased online, by phone at 202-393-3939 (Wednesday–Sunday, 12:00–6:00 p.m.), by email ([email protected]), or in person at the Sales Office at 641 D Street NW, Washington, DC (Wednesday–Sunday, 12:00–6:00 p.m.).

The program for Amm(i)gone is online here.

COVID Safety: Masks are optional in all public spaces at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company except for two MASK-REQUIRED PERFORMANCES: May 1 at 8 pm and May 12 at 2 pm. Woolly’s full safety policy is available here.

Lucille Rieke is an actor, musician, singer, and teaching artist based in Washington, DC, and San Francisco. She is currently a sophomore at American University studying Theatre Performance and Public Relations. You may have seen her recently in American University’s production of Daughters of Leda (Alex/Eve) or Once (Ex-Girlfriend). Lucille is honored to have the opportunity to write with DC Theater Arts as part of the DC Theater U program and cannot wait to begin seeing more theater in the future.


Created and Performed by Adil Mansoor
Co-Directed by Lyam B. Gabel
Media Co-Designer: Joseph Amodei
Media Co-Designer: Davine Byon
Sound Designer: Aaron Landgraf
Set and Lighting Designer: Xotchil Musser
Stage Manager: Jazzy Davis

BOLD Assistant Director: Fatima Dyfan
Associate Lighting Designer: Sasha Finley
Associate Scenic Designer: Cecilia Shin
Costume Coordinator: Andrew Cutler
Production Assistant: Briana Padgett
Light Board Operator: Reina Ramos
AV Operator: Preston Heard
Lighting Programmer: Susannah Cai
Crew Swing: Stephen Lyons II
Tour Production Management: Colin K. Bills
Carpenters: Mickey Cappiello, Stephen Lyons II, Melvin Knight, Vika Hearne, Aaron Ermlich
Lighting Crew: Milan Robinson, Alexander Kim, E-hui Woo
Key Art Design: Sylvie Lass. Key Art Photo: Beth Barbis. Key Art Border Pattern: Xotchil Musser.

‘Amm(i)gone,’ solo play about queer momma’s boy, to premiere at Woolly (news story March 28, 2024)


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