Arkadi Zaides Quiet 58.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
On the face of it, Gilad Evron’s gripping Ulysses on Bottles is a
straightforward leftist polemic that accuses us of brutality in
Ulysses (Khalifa Natour), a former teacher, has been arrested and
charged with various security infractions for his attempt to reach Gaza on a
raft made of bottles. His purpose? To teach Russian literature to the Azatis.
Not even attorney Izaakov (Itcho Avital), who has taken on his case pro bono,
believes him and, not surprisingly, Mr.
Security (Yussuf Abu-Warda),
Izaakov’s colleague at the Defense Ministry, thinks Ulysses is a major league
Izaakov’s socially ambitious wife, Nochi (Naomi Frumovitch-
Pinkas), and his amoral wannabe partner Horesh (Assaf Solomon) provide
That’s on the face of it! Ulysses on Bottles is actually
an allegory on the definition of freedom – what it means, what it entails and
what it demands. Even the characters’ names are part of it, as is the music and
Avi Shechvi’s set.
The set is a black box punctuated by five featureless
doors, three of which have a slit across the top, each leading to a different
implied reality/choice, whether it’s the comfort of Izaakov’s home or the bleak
horror of Ulysses’s cell.
Freedom, the play seems to be saying, very much
depends on the choices you make, choices that may constrain you more than
shackles, choices which may or may not be worth the price you pay. Russian
literature embodies those choices.
Hence the music that is mostly Lev
Knipper’s patriots’ hymn “Polyushko Polye” (Field, O My Field) with its vision
of horses galloping across the Russian steppes, and then Doris Day singing “Que
Both Natour and Avital reach a peak here: Natour with his
stubborn, heroically unheroic Ulysses, Avital through his increasingly involved
Izaakov. Abu-Warda totally inhabits the terminally suspicious Mr. Security, and
Solomon suavely pinpoints Horesh. It goes almost without saying that director
Ofira Henig has done her usual superb job.