Jerusalem’s ready for Sondheim's ‘Company’

J-Town Playhouse brings Stephen Sondheim’s hard-hitting musical comedy to the Holy City.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
October 16, 2013 21:31
3 minute read.
The cast of 'Company.'

Cast of Company play 370. (photo credit: Courtesy J-Town Playhouse)

Aviella Trapido has come a long way from Oklahoma.

The Johannesburg-born Soprano, who has been performing professionally since age nine, has had the lead role in several Jerusalem productions, including an acclaimed performance in Oklahoma, and many other wholesome plays with fairy-talelike happy endings.

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In her first undertaking behind the scenes as a director, Trapido took upon herself a much more intense storyline in Stephen Sondheim’s Company. The show debuted last week and has seven more performances at the Association of Americans and Canadians (AAC I) in Israel’s Max and Gianna Glassman Center in Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood.

The production deals with relationships from the perspective of a 35-year-old bachelor with many married friends in New York City. While the show is full of humor, it addresses serious issues like drugs, divorce, one-night stands and homosexuality.

Normally such issues would be considered risque for audiences in a city as conservative as Jerusalem. The AAC I, which often caters to seniors, might be an unlikely host for such controversial material.

But Trapido and her stellar cast and crew have succeeded in finding the appropriate balance to make the show appealing, entertaining and inoffensive to a wide spectrum of Jerusalemites, regardless of age and religious observance. No audience members have left or complained thus far and responses from the crowds have exceeded the crew’s expectations.

“Every audience member will be able to connect to the show,” Trapido said in an interview following a dress rehearsal. “Anyone – even people in a healthy relationship – will be able to relate to the characters.”

Trapido, who despite her vast experience is still in her 20s, said that when Raphi Poch of AACI’s J-Town Playhouse Theater approached her to direct, she had no idea how much work it would be. But she said the cast she picked is so professional that they made it easy on her.

“I’m surprisingly better at being a boss than I thought it would be,” she said. “It means handling stressful situations and being sensitive to the cast’s needs and abilities, but it’s so worth it. We have become a family.”

Trapido said that putting on a Sonheim show is a challenge, because he weaves together strong messages, beautifully executed in such a humorous way. More than 80 people auditioned for the play, including 14 for the lead role of Bobby.

Native Israeli Isaac Sutton, who regularly performs at Tel Aviv’s acclaimed Cameri Theater, was chosen for Bobby. As Trapido puts it: “When he walked in the door, we just knew.”

Sutton described Bobby as his “dream role,” and he clearly put his heart and soul into his performance.

The show features 14 actors – Anglos and Israelis, from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv – ranging in age from 22 to 51, and a professional six piece band that plays an important role in setting the tone and the pace throughout the play.

Together, they present Bobby’s world, which he constantly questions as he attempts to understand what he is looking for in a woman and in life. While the play debuted in the 1970s, it is as relevant as ever, exposing relationships for what they really are – imperfect and often excruciatingly challenging.

THE PRODUCTION’S memorable songs help tell the story and give it verve. Its most well known songs include “The Ladies Who Lunch,” “(Not) Getting Married Today,” and “Being Alive.”

Impressive performances are delivered by Rebecca Sykes, who was cast from America before moving to Israel, as well as Shannon Kisch, Leora Elman, Howie Metz, Shahaf Ifhar, Noa Lavi-Shoseyov, David Djemal, Avital Sykora, Tom Karni, Ron Orlovsky, Naomi Winkler, Alina Halpert and Ashley Shapiro.

Crew members include Poch and three Aryehs: Krasman, Supperstein and Kaufman.

Without giving anything away, Trapido describes the show’s conclusion as not the typical happy ending one would find in a show like Oklahoma but a hopeful one nonetheless.

“A lot of people like happy endings but it’s not reality,” she said. “This is reality. It’s not a fluffy show. It addresses serious issues, but I think Jerusalem audiences are ready.”

Company runs October 17 though 2. Admission: NIS 80. Special discounts for students, soldiers, AACI members and groups of 10 or more. In English. For more info contact (02) 566-1181.


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