Theater Review: Difficult People
Naor’s direction of Yosef Bar Yosef's “sort-of comedy” tiptoes too much, is too respectful and is almost glossy.
'Difficult People' at the Haifa Theater Photo: Courtesy
The difficult people of Bar Yosef’s “sort-of comedy” – which is how he defined
it – are Simon (Moshe Ivgi), his spinster sister Rachel (Helena Yeralova) off of
whom he sponges, imported suitor-from-Jerusalem Lazer (Halifa Natour) and
eccentric landlord Benny (Selim Dau).
These are grey, stunted people
inhabiting a circumscribed world, reflected in Lily Ben-Nachshon’s overly
shabby, mud-colored apartment and Ofra Confino’s understated costumes. Simon
wears a brown wide-pinstripe suit, looking like the spiv he is. Rachel a wears a
shapeless blue dress, Benny’s in a cardigan and jeans, while Lazer’s navy-blue
suit is just a bit too big for him.
Life seems a bit too big for Lazer.
Simon has wrenched him from his native Jerusalem to become Rachel’s husband,
seemingly ignorant of Benny’s inarticulate yearning towards her. Poor babes in
the woods. Lazer isn’t equipped for the real world, addicted as he is to
Neither is painfully shy Rachel, accustomed as she is to being put
upon. And just as, against all the odds, Rachel and Lazer muddle toward an
understanding, Simon-the-selfish puts a spoke in their wheels.
People is about ambitions, ambiguities, about the frailty of assumptions, about,
in the end, spiritual pettiness.
Bringing a groom from Jerusalem to the
Diaspora, suggests director Naor, is messianic, an intimation of what could be
to what is. But people are difficult, and Simon can’t maintain the generous
impulse that brought Lazer to his sister.
As Rachel, Yeralova is
especially fine, her body language more eloquent than her words. Natour
consciously underplays Lazer which makes him powerful, intensifying the
character’s fearfulness. Ivgi’s Simon, while effective, is too pat, lacks
The actor may know the end, the character may not. Selim Dau cameos
sensitively as Benny.
And yet, this Difficult People doesn’t quite get
there despite its excellent actors. Naor’s direction tiptoes too much, is too
respectful, is almost glossy. Iconic though it is, Difficult People sheds blood
and we need to see some of it on the floor.
By Yosef Bar Yosef
Directed by Moshe Naor
Haifa Theater, October 22