Review: ‘Mahida’s Extra Key to Heaven’

  • Steven Michael Walters and Aliah Whitmore star in ‘Mahida’s Extra Key to Heaven’ at the Peterborough Players. Photo

  • Steven Michael Walters and AliahWhitmore star in ‘Mahida’s Extra Key to Heaven’ at the Peterborough Players. (Photo credit:

The Reviewer’s Chair
Published: 6/19/2019 9:17:21 PM

It’s easy enough to think of people from different cultures as if they’re from literally different worlds altogether, but the simple – and perhaps hardest – thing to remember at times is that we are all occupying the same planet. It’s a planet that may seem vast and broken, but a planet of our own all the same. To Mahida and Thomas, played by Aliah Whitmore and Steven Michael Walters respectively, the leads in Russell Davis’ perfectly charming “Mahida’s Extra Key To Heaven,” this isn’t such a hard thing to remember. Yes, they start out as two perfect strangers in this imperfect world, but through conversation and shared passions they find a way to understand each other despite the bridges they have to cross to get there.

Just the right blend of philosophical and comical, “Mahida’s Extra Key To Heaven” pairs two unlikely strangers from two different backgrounds together in an elegant and charming plot. Thomas, an artist, offers Mahida, a college student from Iran who dreams of being a writer, his mother’s couch to sleep on for the night after she misses a ferry. This simple act of kindness, of initiated companionship, sets in motion a delightful, and at times dangerous, chain of events.

The play opens simply, on a pier overlooking the water where Mahida waits for a ferry after being abandoned by her anger-inclined brother, Ramin. It’s late at night, she’s alone. Thomas, who’s visiting his mother and cannot sleep, stops and starts asking her a seemingly endless amount of questions.

They speak of destiny, of presumption, of the things that led them to where they are today. The next day, after staying the night on his mother’s couch, Mahida wakes up to meet Edna, Thomas’s sweet but incredibly misinformed mother played by Kathy Manfre, who sees a curious divide between their two cultures. She maintains her country, America, is the greatest in the world whilst Mahida’s, Iran, is somehow stuck in the past. Later, when she’s introduced to Ramin, portrayed by Adham Haddara, there is a slight mirror to the very first scene of the play, understanding of a certain variety though this interaction is bracketed by danger than gentleness.

The play is simple, the design of it simple, but it is effective. Subtle changes in light compel us to listen to Mahida as she reads a story, soft sounds of waves breaking inform us from the start of where we are, Edna’s living room is sparse to display her idea that everything has its place. It is simple, and it is lovely. Davis has captured acts of simple human kindness, and a few of cruelties, in words; Whitmore, Walters, Manfre and Haddara, in action. Kindness is not easy, it’s a bit of a fitful mess, but it is worth it.

So this world, our world, is not so vast as a meadow, not so broken after all. Cracked? Yes. Shattered? No. A brother who might seem cruel and malicious was still once that toddler who held your hand as you helped him take wobbly steps across the floor, after all. This is the essence of being, the essence of this play.

“Mahida’s Extra Key To Heaven” opened Wednesday and runs until June 30, beginning the 86th year of performance at the Peterborough Players.

The Peterborough Players is located at 55 Hadley Road in Peterborough. the box office can be reached at 603-924-7585. You can learn more at

Cheyenne Heinselman is an actress and a playwright, a member of the International Thespian Society Troupe #7883, as well as an avid and opinionated supporter of the arts.


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