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Driving The Saudis – How It Nearly Drove Her Crazy (Fringe Festival 2010)

by Lina Zeldovich on August 17, 2010

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Jayne Amelia Larson (Photographer: Eric Swarz)

Jayne Amelia Larson (Photographer: Eric Swarz)

“The worst job I ever had,” is how writer and actress Jayne Amelia Larsen describes her staggering experience of being a driver for a Saudi family on their Beverly Hills vacation. The family (along with their entourage) took up several floors in a luxury hotel, keeping one room as a tea room, and embarked on their escapade of shopping and plastic surgeries.

Jayne wears many hats, or rather veils, abayas and hijabs during her one-woman show as she portrays a spoiled teenager, an old nanny and a sad young bride who has to marry her father’s colleague and “make her family very proud.” Switching from the narrative monologue to portraying the actual characters, she relates the customs, the psyche and the lifestyle as foreign to us as Martians’.

“I have three cars back at home,” Jayne imitates a teenage princess chirping from the back the back seat of her car. “My brother has twenty five.” It may sound like a five-year-old’s power talk, but it wasn’t. That princess cleaned out Rodeo Drive boutiques day after day, never worrying about prices. A different princess asks to be driven to the beach – only to look at it from the back seat of the car. She’s not allowed to leave the limo, let alone appear on the beach in a bathing suit.

“We are temptresses,” Jayne mimics one of the Saudi women’s explanation of their dress code. “It’s our nature. We never know when a curve of a cheek, a glimpse of a wrist or twist of an ankle may tempt a man. Therefore we must cover.”

The nanny has her own vision of a hijab. “A salad is good with just olive oil, but there’s one thing that makes it special. Lemon. It’s the final touch. It makes the salad complete. That’s what a hijab is. It makes me complete.”

Jayne humorously recalls speed-shopping for sixty bras of size D, ransacking Pathmark to get twenty seven bottles of hair remover and having to transfer a sedated princess from a wheel chair into a car after she had a butt job. Yet, the work was far from fun. She drove eighteen hours a day, dealt with moody royals, their insolent staff and rude security guards. The servants, she says, were nice, to the point that she formed a bond with some of them.

“Don’t buy that!” she recalls grabbing a can of Spam out of a servant girl’s hands. “You don’t want to eat that. Why? It’s pork, you know – pig. Oh, you don’t know what’s pig? Oink-oink!”

The royal’s entourage came to like Jayne especially after learning she had no husband. They promised to pray for her to find one, and, when they were leaving, asked her to visit. “Me, visit Saudi Arabia?” laughs Jayne. “Are you kidding me? I’d be beheaded.”

She puts on a short film interview with the Saudi’s executioner, telling us how be-headings are done with a sword. Unbelievably, the man does not look like a sociopath and he even has a spark in his eyes. He says he felt very proud when he was offered the job; it’s an important post after all.

If nothing else, after an hour and half of the multi-media Saudi briefing, you will have a very different perspective on how your gas money makes someone’s fortune. The word Saudi, by the way, means fortunate. Yet, even the Arabian sheiks can be cheap. For the seven weeks of the royal nightmare, Jayne expected a good tip – which typically ranged from five to ten thousand dollars. Hers, however, came to a thousand only. She was a woman, after all.

The princess’s nanny had taught Jayne an Arabic proverb, “Do not use all of your upset at once. Save some for later.” That’s how I felt when I left the theater. The Saudis ain’t going nowhere, and we will continue making them fortunate… until the oil runs out.


Writer: Jayne Amelia Larson
Director: Charlie Stratton

1h 30m

VENUE #16: The SoHo Playhouse
Click on the date for ticket information:
Thu 19 @ 3 Sat 21 @ NOON Sun 22 @ 9:15 Fri 27 @ 3:45

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