Overview (Spoilers Below):
Famous diva Abla Fahita performs her much-anticipated live show, Isis and a Thousand Suitors. While playing the Egyptian goddess, she wards off marriage proposals from potential beaus such as Don Juan and King Shahryar.
Unfortunately, she reveals far more than intended during the final act, having neglected to have donned the dress beneath her robe. With the lights out and food dwindling for her, her long-suffering daughter Caro (Carcoura), and her son Boudi, she finally accepts a call from cabaret owner Fayez Mango.
She suggests they discuss the offer over a business dinner. Kebab, per Caro’s suggestion, and “extra lamb chops because I am on keto diet” at Abla’s request. Fayez Mango had proposed she star in a feature film on the phone, and pushes the contract towards her. Unable to read it without her glasses, she signs, only to find out she’s agreed to perform in his club once a week.
But just when it seems like her predicament can’t get any worse, Fayez Mango is murdered. Abla finds herself separated from her children, and framed as the prime suspect in the brutal crime.
Can she reunite her family and clear her name?
I’m not familiar enough with Alba Fahita as a character or Egyptian socio-political issues to catch most of the satire.
I’m also just not into puppet comedy lately. The gimmick feels kind of played out. And honestly, no one can top the Muppets, so why bother?
But this show did have its moments. The puppets are impressively crafted and well maneuvered. The dubbing for Abla and Caro is effective, and smooth enough to not be distracting (especially compared to the dubbing of the live actors.)
Additionally, the production is well done. Particularly of note are the dancing scenes from the ultimately doomed performance in “Work Kebab”, the dramatic high-rise escape attempt in “Farewell Bonaparte”, and the Phantom of the Opera-esque reveal of the true murderer in “Fangs without a Serpent”.
Where it suffers is the writing. There’s some decent jokes here and there, but overall there’s not much holding the story together. Ambitiously combining a celebrity fall from grace storyline with a more general murder mystery plot is an interesting approach, but this show just doesn’t quite manage to pull it off.
The source of her troubles is framed externally: Abla stripping on stage by accident, and subsequently being shamed for her public nudity. She doesn’t really grow or improve from this, and there’s only so many one-off jokes that can make up for the lack of character development.
Then there’s the murder. Why do the villains want to pin the crime on her, specifically? It’s never really explained. Or maybe it’s lost in translation. Speaking of translation, apparently Abla is an honorific in Arabic (along the lines of “teacher” or “ma’am”), but I couldn’t help but mentally translate it as habla/”speak” making every time someone addressed her sound like “speak fajita!”
But I digress.
As surface level as Abla’s predicament may be, the rest of the puppet cast flails a bit as well.
Caro constantly referring to herself in the third person gets old immediately, as does her treatment by her mother throughout. And ultimately, she simply resigns to her fate, despite apparently having written a screenplay for a feature film that she intended to star in.
Overall, it’s you’re already an Abla Fahita, puppet, or murder mystery fan, this show may just pique your interest. But otherwise, it’s safe to skip, at least in my opinion.