After college and the army, I studied acting and theater; I have an MFA in Acting and uncompleted Ph.D. in Performance Studies (ABD). I have worked as an actor, director, dramaturg/literary advisor, critic/reviewer, essayist, editor, and teacher of theater and acting (studio/conservatory, college, high school, and middle school). Several years ago, some theater friends who don't live in New York anymore asked me to keep them informed about what I see and I began sending them detailed, opinionated e-mails.
[When Helen Eleasari offered to send me the journal of
her trip to Berlin (see ROT, 22 July), she also offered some recent
reviews from her job at the Jerusalem Post.(Helen, as readers of ROT may have discerned, writes for JP as Helen Kaye; her other work, including “Berlin,”
is by-lined Helen Eleasari.)Needless to
add, I jumped at the opportunity to run Helen’s reviews, both as a way to continue
to broaden the selection of voices that appear on ROT and to keep posting items about cultural events from other part of the
country and the world, distant from my East Coast beat.
[Two of the reviews below, originally published in May
and July this year, are of plays by 63-year-old Israeli playwright and
screenwriter Motti Lerner.“To put into
context the reviews,” when Helen sent me the copy, she remarked: “Motti Lerner
is an intensely political playwright whose work is controversial here as it
pulls no punches, especially vis a vis the messianic religious right.” The third notice is of
a Hebrew translation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth (which Helen said was very hard to write).“Omri Nitzan [the Macbeth director] is the artistic director of the
Cameri,” Helen explained, “and has been for the last 15 years or so. He's our Peter Brook, sort of.”]
Hastening the End
by Ron Ninio
observant friends who have watched Motti Lerner’s Hastening the End are
stiff with outrage. The situation, says one “is more complex. You can’t make a
black or white poster out of everything.”
is as fanatical as those he calls fanatics,” observes another. “[The play] is
manipulative, things are taken out of context.”
although this is a polemic rather than a play, and preaches to the converted, there
is in it a discussion on the nature of religion, on the content of the
relationship between man and the deity.
it’s the polemic that is out front. Its attack is two-pronged. It pillories what
is perceived as Jewish national religious fanaticism; the kind of fanaticism,
maintains Lerner, that justifies cold-blooded murder of the ‘other’ or ‘the goy’
in the name of and sanctioned by Jewish Law, or Halacha. It also charges us
with moral cowardice in that we back off, refusing to see a threat that, if
permitted to rampage on, will destroy us.
vehicle is a sort-of play within a play of a father/son relationship that goes
terminally bad because religion opens a chasm between them.
high-school student Yuval Rosenfeld, played with fiery conviction by Itay
Zvulun, has dressed up for Purim as Baruch Goldstein, the New-York born
physician who in 1994 opened fire on Muslim worshippers in the Cave of the
Patriarchs in Hebron, killing 29 and wounding 125, was in his turn slaughtered
by the enraged Muslims, and thereby became a hero-martyr to the extreme
that his son could identify with a killer, playwright Hagai Rosenfeld (Nir Ron),
and formerly a yeshiva teacher himself, goes in search of the truth behind the
massacre, proposing to write a play on Goldstein. Ron’s style of acting always
conveys much with little, and here he beautifully shows us Hagai’s mounting
Ninio has the actors on stage throughout on Kineret Kisch’s yeshiva-classroom
set, as if they’re participating in a ‘shi-ur’, a lesson in its biblical sense.
Arye Tcherner invests his two rabbinical characters with a smug sanctimony
whereas Jonathan Miller’s pair of settler rabbis shows fiery certitude. As
Hagai’s former yeshiva colleague, Yossi Eini creates an uneasy Rabbi Amiel astride
an easy play to see but if it provokes discourse, then it has done its job.
Pangs of the Messiah
by Kfir Azulai
Theater, Beersheva (Be’er Sheva)
this Pangs of the Messiah does one thing, it gives the settlers a human
face, makes us realize they’re people, not just, as many perceive them, a
symbol of intransigent and messianic religious nationalism.
play itself may center on what takes place in a family home in Samaria, but its implications are national
and grim. Unless we get our own house in order, very soon we won’t have one. Is
this the pang? Is the title one of grim irony? Or do we take the title
literally? As birth pangs produce a child, do these pangs produce Redemption?
Shmuel Basson (Jonathan Tcherchi), a religious and political leader in his
community, is desperately working to prevent the signing of a peace treaty
between Israel and the
Palestinian Authority, and not just because his community will become part of
the new Palestine.
He genuinely believes such a treaty will be disastrous for the Jewish people,
but intends to work within the law to get what he wants. Not so some of his
son-in-law Benny (Nimrod Bergman) has already served time for murdering Arabs
and will contemplate whatever it takes to effect that perceived Redemption.
Lerner’s recent Hastening the End (Jerusalem Khan, May ’13) that deals
with the Goldstein massacre in Hebron
may be seen as the inevitable outcome of this ideology.
son Avner (Oren Cohen), whom he had sent to the US to drum up support against the
treaty among American Jews, returns home with his wife Tirtza (Noa Baron), and
becomes radicalized, to her horror and disgust. As the negotiations move
inexorably toward the signing of a treaty, events spiral out of control and
more than lives are shattered.
lurks throughout: Shmuel’s youngest, Nadav (Tom Hagi) is brain-damaged. His
mother Amalia (Orna Rothberg) was beaten by a soldier during the pregnancy. She
gets hit again now. Nadav’s dog is injured and on and on.
are people whom history takes and shakes as they scrabble to control events.
Azulai’s direction encompasses this as does the acting. Tcherchi soars as
Shmuel, a principled man whose belief and faith in what he does are genuine. As
Amalia, Rothberg is focused, intent on keeping their lives together. From his
first moment on stage, Hagi quietly conveys that Nadav isn’t quite all there
and as Tirtza, Baron lets us feel her growing despair.
George Santayana said: Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat
William Shakespeare Hebrew
by Dori Parnes Directed
by Omri Nitzan Cameri
Theater, Tel Aviv
production must reflect its place and time says Omri Nitzan, be “here and now”.
Our world is visual, immediate. Everybody knows everything all the time. The
social media see to that. Hence Macbeth. It’s ironic, vulgar, cynical,
violent, gaudy, paranoid, brash, and overflows its bounds, into the aisles, the
wings, anywhere there’s space.
why the report to Duncan (Eli Gornstein) of Macbeth’s (Gil Frank) prowess at
the beginning of the play is almost parody; that’s why, from the beginning we
realize that Macbeth is essentially a little man who gets too big for his boots
– even his “throne” dwarfs him; that’s why low comedy is juxtaposed with
terror; why the scenes that Shakespeare keeps offstage we see close up and
personal, and why the blood motif inundates not only events but the lighting,
set and clothes.
Macbeth is true to Shakespeare’s, and Shakespeare’s Macbeth,
according to Polish scholar Jan Kott posits a nightmare world that is ‘steeped
in blood . . . it floods the stage.’ Macbeth is about lust, about toxic
ambition, about power turned to megalomania, about slaughter, about
pointlessness, and for us ‘here and now’, about the nightmare world we’ve lived
in since 9/11.
the murder of Duncan,
after the murder of Banquo (Ohad Shahar), Macbeth can say callously (and
famously) “. . . I am in blood/Stepp’d in so far that should I wade no
more/Returning were as tedious as go o’er.”
has made the choice. He made it when he killed Duncan. The greatness of Frank’s performance
as Macbeth is that he makes us bear horrified witness to his trajectory from
good to evil. He shows us how he chooses, lets us into the mind of an evolving
monster, compelling our attention.
Shahar also grabs us. His Banquo is no shining moral light. No less opportunist
than his colleague, he’s more cautious, willing to wait and see. Then Macbeth
orders his murder. Outraged at the treachery, Banquo/Shahar bestows a gleeful
and witty savagery on his ghost. There are some superb scenes in this Macbeth
and the Banquet is one.
the tipping point to all is Lady Macbeth (Ruthie Asarsai). She it is who goads
him into the initial killing, she who reassures her panicked spouse that water
will “wash this filthy witness from your hand”, she who is so intent upon the
immediate goal that she does not think of consequence. She cannot bend, and so
she breaks. Ruthie Asarsai reaches for the stars in this hugely demanding role
and nearly gets there. What she cannot suppress is her own imagination, an
attribute lacking in Shakespeare’s very literal Lady M, so that Asarsai’s Lady
M becomes too vulnerable.
the beginning Dudu Niv’s fine Macduff is a watcher; he’s wary, keeps his head
down so he can keep it on. We watch him change as the visceral shock when he
hears his family has been murdered, hits home. For the time it needs, he’ll
become as vicious as his former boss.
Gornstein shines as Duncan and the gentle Doctor.Alon Dahan’s ‘drunken’ pseudo-gravity adds
irony to the Porter’s speech and Witches Edna Balilius, Yarden Bracha and Rona
Lee Shimon fling themselves gustily into their roles.
or triumph? This Macbeth is some of both yet more than either. Its
blood-soaked darkness sheds some light on who and what we may be. And isn’t
that the point?
[As ROTters will remember, I’ve known Helen since I
directed her in a showcase of Oscar Wilde’s Lady
Windermere’s Fan back in the ‘1976.Though
she was born in the U.K, Helen lived in the States for years before she making
her aliyah to Israel.Aside from her writing, Helen directs plays
and musicals in English.The articles
Helen’s sent me for ROT include her most recent, “Berlin,” and
coverage of the 2012 Acre (Acco) Festival (posted on ROT on 9 November 2012), summer theater for
children (“Help! It's August: Kid-Friendly Summer Festivals in Israel,”
12 September 2010), and other productions like an adaptation/interpretation of The
Trojan Women by Yukio Ninagawa,;The Tired Heroby Eldar Galor, and Not
By Bread Alone by Nalagaat (all posted as “Dispatches from Israel,” 23 January 2013).Helen’s JP review of Harper Regan
in Tel Aviv is attached to my own report of 20 October 2012 as a comment dated
28 October.With any luck at all, Helen
will keep sending me interesting stuff to post on ROT for the benefit of its readers.]