Dor Zweigenbom was named Best Actor and winner of the NIS 5,000 Nissim Azikri Prize at the 2014 TheaterNetto monodrama festival for his performance in the autobiographical Why I Killed My Mother, which he also wrote.

Honorable Mention went to Adi Snir for her also autobiographical Chewing Bazooka in the Closet.

Mime and object theater enrich what the judges called Zweigenbom’s “roller-coaster ride” through the ambivalences of his relationship with his mother. A disciplined and virtuoso performer, Zweigenbom takes us through a fraught childhood with a controlling and selfish mother and an abusive stepfather.

We see the actor do battle with the anguished son, and neither loses control. He’s aided by imaginative computer animation and by Hanoch Re’im’s perceptive direction that keeps crisp what could so easily have become soggy.

“From the first moment we want to hug her,” declared the judges of Adi Snir in her Chewing Bazooka, calling it “a courageous piece.” Well yes, and no. Surely Ms. Snir’s reasons for breaking with her ultra-Orthodox (haredi) hassidic upbringing and worship extend beyond gum, pop music, skimpy dresses and other expressions of the secular life, but these are what we mainly see.

There’s this 15-year-old, erstwhile cocooned in a loving family which now spurns her, living rough on the street with other outcasts, farmed out by the system to a patronizing and insensitive foster “mother,” who now begs the juvenile court judge she be responsible for herself.

The play’s most moving moments are those in which Snir interacts with and unceasingly longs for her family; the courage required to do what she knows will sunder her from that family is enormous. That Snir, who is not an actress, conveys so completely and with charm what is happening with her is due in no little to director Jonathan Tcherchi.

These are very personal plays, as were the other four plays I saw of the nine listed, and they explore our interior rather than our political landscape.

Dana Goldberg’s Esti of the Oranim uses the disastrous 2010 Carmel fire as a metaphor for a situation that overwhelms its protagonist to the point of nervous breakdown, and actress Odelia Segal meets the challenge. In As for the Bird Shlomi Bertonov does a masterly – an honorable mention wouldn’t have been amiss here – job of creating Mikey, a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome who’s desperate to belong. He’s trying to explain how a bird trapped in the sports hall got killed. All is set up and in order, but when that order goes south, Mikey must struggle to retain control.

Life in a Can, written and played by sweet-faced Liat Shabtai, uses varying sizes of tin cans as people and places to tell the story of CJ, a Filipina child whose efforts to find the class hamster gain her an unlikely friend. Here too the theme is needing to belong. The cans work wonderfully, the play not so much.

And in the episodic Lips to Lips, based on his short story by Vladimir Nabokov, clad in a neat brown three piece suit the urbane yet anxious Shalom Shmuelov as wannabe novelist Ilya Borisovitz gradually entangles his own persona with that of his fictional protagonist at the cost of their mutual self-respect. It’s neatly done and we believe him.

The festival took place at various Old Jaffa venues, and celebrating Shakespeare’s 450 birthday, students from the Performance Arts Academy offered excerpts from the plays on the Jaffa Theater plaza. The festival ran from April 17-19.

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