The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Written and directed by Ido Ricklin
Beersheva Theater,
March 18

Ido Ricklin’s Hunchback of Notre Dame paints a vicious, deformed world in which almost the only shelter for mercy or love is in the misshapen body of Quasimodo, the hunchback. Inarticulate, he can only show both. The talker is Gringoire, a glib verse-maker. Both are played by Alon Ofir, two faces of the same soul, as Ricklin writes in his “director’s notes.”

Gringoire and Quasimodo are both in love with the gypsy street-dancer Esmeralda (Hadas Moreno) whose beauty and sensuality make her the object of desire for men such as the amoral Phoebus (Gal Amitai) or the sex-obsessed priest of Notre Dame, Dom Frolio (Amir Kriaf) who found and has raised Quasimodo in its shelter.

Kriaf, in line with Ricklin’s concept, also plays the controlling gypsy king Clopin and the indifferent monarch Louis XI, users both.

Despite the efforts of Gringoire and Quasimodo, Esmeralda is brought to ruin and death via the deft machinations of such as Amitai and Kriaf in their various alter egos: and much of it takes place within the soon-to-be-breached sanctuary of the great cathedral of Notre Dame.

Talia Ottolenghi’s looming gray and black stippled backdrop serves to highlight a movable circular slab (a font? An altar?) on which much of the action takes place, complemented by sliding “wrought-iron” panels that are both barrier and gateway. Svetlana Breger’s eye-catching costumes suggest the era (late 15th century), but what possessed her to afford only a wee and skimpy petticoat to Moreno under that luscious dress she wears? Moreno is beautiful, but does not move well, nor does she project Esmeralda’s sex appeal. As the mutilated, broken fugitive Esmeralda she convinces much more.

The acting honors go to Kriaf, who attacks each of his three roles with a completely different energy so that for each a full character steps forth.

I wish that the same could be said for Ofir’s Quasimodo, but he never rises above a picture-book; we don’t sufficiently see the progression of creature to person, although as Gringoire he is more fully formed.

Ido Ricklin is a fine director. I wish that the world he posits carried through into what it does. As it is, the production serves up a series of (frequently very poignant) vignettes, but they don’t take us anywhere, so that this Hunchback never quite gets off the ground.

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