Theater Review 88.
(photo credit: )
Written and directed by Shmuel Hasfari
Cameri Theater, Tel Aviv
His post-Zionist trilogy, Kiddush, Hametz and Shiva, hinted that Israeli society has moved beyond the old Zionist ideals - ideals that it ignores at its peril. The must-see Havdala makes the trilogy a quartet, and in it, Shmuel Hasfari no longer hints. He comes right out and says that not only have we sold our birthright for a mess of pottage, but that we have tossed the lot into a sewer.
True, the packaging is effervescent and brilliantly comedic, but the ugliness of its content is like a knife to the gut.
Havdala is set in 1968, a month or so before the Independence Day parade to glorify the massive victory of the Six Day War. It moves, via Dror Herrenson's evocative set, between Holon, where the Levavi family lives, and Jerusalem, home of the Chavoyniks. Nathan Levavi (Gil Frank) and his wife Sarah (Anat Waxman) are immigrant Holocaust survivors, barely eking out a living because Nathan has refused reparations. Their son Avner (Dan Shapira) studies economics in Jerusalem.
Wealthy Ya'akov Chavoynik owns a meat factory. He and his wife, the ditzy, shallow Leah (Gilat Ankori), are fifth and seventh generation Jerusalemites. They have a daughter, Saraleh (Liat Har-Lev). Avner and Saraleh fall in love, and that's when the trouble starts.
Like a boil, the degradation of morality, principles, honor, values, even common decency festers to a head and bursts. Not even ruins remain.
It follows, then, that the characters are close to caricatures - suggesting that this is what we have become - and the actors are mostly pitch-perfect. In particular, Frank's emotionally huddled Nathan is glorious. Katz's vulgar, insecurely complacent Chavoynik is the perfect foil.
Havdala begins with havdala, the ritual that ends Shabbat, blessing the Lord who "separates the sacred from the profane, light from darkness, Israel from other nationsâ€¦" Not any more, says Hasfari. Not here.