Dishwasher Dreams

By Andrew Andrews

Alladin Ullah describes growing up Bengladeshi in 1970s Spanish Harlem in Dishwasher Dreams, accompanied by Avirodh Sharma on tabla. Original photo by Nate Shorman.

Alladin Ullah’s story is the quintessential New York story.

A first-generation American, Alladin grew up in the tenements and projects of Spanish Harlem, in the only Bangladeshi family in the neighborhood.

His father was first to arrive, and, a bachelor at the time, found a job working fourteen-hour days, seven days a week at a local restaurant, alongside a young Bahamian named Sid Poitier who dreamed of one day becoming a famous actor.

Alladin’s father had a dream, also: to own a restaurant.

Eventually, he opened one in Hell’s Kitchen, only to sell his interest after deciding there was more reward in being a dishwasher.

Years later, he returned to Bangladesh and met a feisty, divorced, already-pregnant Muslim woman, and brought her back to New York to raise a family.

A few years later, Alladin was born into what he calls, “the Aadams Family of the hood.”

Growing up, Alladin tried to distance himself from his heritage, only leveraging it at age five to convince his mother to buy him a pair of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar “Muslim” shell toe sneakers.

At age eighteen, after watching a George Carlin special on HBO, Alladin discovered his own dream: to become a stand-up comedian.

Backed by the talented tabla performer Avirodh Sharma and directed by Gabriel Vega Weissman, Dishwasher Dreams is Alladin’s heartwarming, comedic version of the American dream.

Ignoring the specifics of his family heritage and his childhood neighborhood, it’s a story that’s been told countless times over many centuries.

A story that will continue to be told for many generations to come.

A story that Americans hold dear to our hearts, even for those that are twice removed or greater from their ancestors who were fresh off the boat.

But for those of us born to immigrant parents in 1970s and 1980s New York City, Alladin’s story hits, quite literally, very close to home.

Unfortunately, there are only two more chances to catch Dishwasher Dreams in this incarnation at the Castillo Theatre: tonight at 7:30pm, and tomorrow’s 2pm matinée.

So make your way to Hell’s Kitchen while you can, then come back here and tell us if you agree that this is a five-star show.

Your reviews can help others decide whether to anticipate the return of Dishwasher Dreams, and your ratings help us help you find future performances you’re sure to love!


Andrew Andrews attended Dishwasher Dreams at All Stars Project Castillo Theatre in Manhattan on Friday, November 16, 2018 @ 4:30pm to write this review.