Theater Review: They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

This Horses, from first to last, is as near perfection as a production can get.

By HELEN KAYE
July 4, 2013 07:33
1 minute read.
‘THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON’T THEY?’

theater370. (photo credit: (Yossi Zwecker) )

Take a handkerchief, because trust me, you may very well be unashamedly bawling at the end of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? You’ll be bawling for those poor idiots’ courage, their despair, their naivety, their flickering hope, their sheer endurance.

Anybody who saw the film, starring Jane Fonda, will remember that Horses is about the ubiquitous dance marathons in the US during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The participants were the gladiators of their day – “we who are about to die salute thee” – hungry, jobless people dancing endless hours to entertain and titillate an audience almost as desperate as themselves.

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This Horses, from first to last, is as near perfection as a production can get. Dedi Baron’s focused direction excludes even an iota of false pathos. Dana Tsarfaty’s cheap dance-hall set and glossily tawdry costumes marvelously exude “tacky.” The spruce, vivid, superbly performed choreography by Aviahai Hacham and Oron Dahan, and there are some exhilarating company numbers, heighten irony. Avi Benjamin’s choice of period show-tunes, let alone his spirited tour de force at the piano, encapsulates the era, and the actors all go at it at such full tilt that you’re rooting for them from the get-go.

Shlomo Bar-Abba shamelessly, and properly, plays to the house as Rocky, the cynical entrepreneur organizing this marathon. His character anchors the action, and Bar-Abba nudges, pricks, strokes and tickles, never letting go of the reins. Rollo, his roller-skating sidekick, seethingly portrayed by Yossi Toledo, provides the spur.

For each of the 16 actors playing the eight couples competing for $5,000 – a huge sum in the 1930s – there’s a moment when each attains to so wrenching a truth that you can hardly bear to watch.

For example, when Alice (Michal Berstein) loses the dress she thinks defines her, or when Shirley (Adi Arad), nearly at the end of her tether, sings the national anthem, or defiant Gloria (Anna Dobrovitsky) finally lets go of all her ersatz guts, or war-veteran Harry (Rami Baruch) silently pegs out, or roving reporter Robert (Udi Rothschild) finally relinquishes his false objectivity.

This is a production to treasure. 

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
Adapted by Shlomi Moscowitz
Directed by Dedi Baron
Haifa & Cameri Theaters, June 28


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