‘Power tends to corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” famously said
Lord Acton. When money and greed are added, then the mix becomes
toxic. Power, greed and vast wealth underpin the plots of both The Visit
and Maxi and I. The heroes of both plays are equally manipulative and ruthless,
but there the similarities end – or do they? Don’t both productions attempt to
show us that unbridled greed or ambition or any desire carried to obsession
endanger our souls?
Maxi and I
Written and directed by Hillel Mittelpunkt
Lessin, February 2
The perfect amalgam of our sleek, spruce, well-dined, wined
and manicured tycoons, Maxi (Igal Naor), as he is supposed to, dominates Hillel
Mittelpunkt’s topical satire on Israel’s tycoon class. Maxi is larger than life,
and Naor plays him to the hilt with enormous gusto.
Maxi wants a plot of
land in the Negev to build a power station on – yes, the choice of a power
station make its own deliberate comment – and to get it he lies, cheats,
suborns, diddles, bullies and charms, acquiring and discarding people like a
hand of cards. Because our Maxi can smell out the money-hungry, the ambitious
orphan Alex (Shlomi Tapiero) is his latest acquisition, and the web is
What was Mittelpunkt thinking of? Maxi and I
has stock characters –
the rebellious daughter (Talya Yaholomi- Levy), the adulterous wife (Nati
Kluger-Rozenberg), the crusty but lovable communist grandma (Miriam Zohar) – and
stock situations, almost like the old commedia dell’arte, including a few
improbable ones. It’s all so shallow.
And that is the point. You almost
miss it, but that’s the point.
In the headlong gallop to more, we live
our lives on the surface, more and more relinquishing the values that matter.
That’s what he’s saying, and the twist of Mittelpunkt’s wicked little play is in
Under the tornado that is Naor, Shlomi Tapiero works gamely as
Alex. That he never quite inhabits the role is due mostly to
inexperience. As Grandma Rushka, Miriam Zohar has moments of truth, but
Zohar is not a character actress and should not be cast in such
roles.Yahalomi-Levy, Kluger Rosenberg play their women with brio, as does Michal
Kirson as secretary Doris. Avishai Milstein is deliciously nerdy as anxious
Orson. Bambi Fridman has given us an awardworthy depersonalized set, complete
with electronic ticker tape.
The bottom line? Mittelpunkt usually sticks
his chin out more. Maxi and I
tells us nothing new about ourselves. That is its
strength and its weakness.The Visit By Friedrich Dürrenmatt Translated
by Rivka Meshulach Directed by Ilan Ronen
Habimah, February 3
In The Visit
money doesn’t talk, it shouts. Claire Zachanassian (Gila Almagor), the richest
woman in the world, has returned to her native village of Guellen to right a
wrong, for which read exact revenge. She will give a billion – half to the town,
half to its citizens – provided they do to death Alfred Ill (Yehoram Gaon), the
man who was her lover, the father of her dead child and who committed perjury at
the paternity suit she brought against him.
Outraged, the good citizens
of Guellen reject her monstrous proposal. But gradually, inevitably, as
the magnetic dazzle of wealth displaces their moral compass, the monstrous
becomes possible, then inevitable in its own turn.
Ilan Ronen is a gifted
director. His staging on Lily Ben-Nahshon’s twotier set, backed by a transparent
scrim on which is projected a huge clock face, is thoughtful and
imaginative. For instance, when the townspeople are together, they
cluster like the herd they are, the thought of all that moola leading them by
the nose. Durrenmatt specifies that the new shoes, as all begin to buy on
credit, are yellow, and as the play progresses, that yellow takes over the sober
colors of their previous apparel and lives. Gold is yellow. It’s also the color
of cowardice, moral or physical.
Unhappily, this Visit never quite gets
off the ground because the leads don’t. What Claire and Alfred had all those
years ago needs to be present, a gossamer wreath among the bleakness, and it
isn’t. There’s no chemistry between them, no tension. As Claire, Almagor is
marvelously implacable but has not an iota of charm, not even a memory of sex
appeal. As Alfred, Gaon provides no hint of the jolly, handsome devil-may-care
lad he was. He’s all fearful wimp, even when he accepts his fate.
Ansky does a deliciously smarmy Bobby – a former high court judge turned
Claire’s butler; Aharon Almog’s frayed schoolmaster is spot-on; while Dov Reiser
and Robert Hoenig slither suavely hypocritical through the play as the mayor and
the priest, respectively.
When Claire marries husband No. whatever
in the town cathedral, the obsequious townsfolk shower the happy couple with
golden bubbles. However, this Visit
has more plod than bubble.