It's Like Destruction Except the Opposite
By Shai Pitovsky and Rona Sagie
Directed by Shai Pitovsky
The Robot, Hitler and the Knife
Written and directed by Boaz Debbi
The Last Field
By Nahad Bashir
Directed by Adel Abu Raya
Three plays at this year's Acre Theater Festival have in common the youth of their authors (all in their early twenties) and the vividness of their imaginations. Paradoxically, the first two, It's Like Destruction Except the Opposite and The Robot, Hitler and the Knife, rely extensively on the eye of the camera, rather than on the eye of the mind, to illustrate or complement the words and the action.
In Destruction chunks of Styrofoam cover the foreground. The rear of the stage is a segmented wall that is a video screen. The video that starts the drama shows the construction of a Styrofoam model for a stage set, the same stage the audience sees. The Styrofoam is a metaphor for constructed reality because Styrofoam is wonderfully malleable. It can be shaped and colored into anything. Destruction talks of life as a construct whose reality changes according to perception. The male protagonist (Eyal Radoshitzky) has a stagelight that won't go out. The female protagonist (Tali Hirshfeld) has a video machine in which is a tape is stuck showing her mother. They meet at a technician's place where the technician is absent or unavailable, as are all the other agencies or persons whose help they seek. Nothing is what it seems. Even the sunset is a production. The language is crisp, the video work very fine, the overall feel poetic, the performances nuanced and at the end, there is something to think about.
Robot is actually two short plays that are about growing up, and about the complicated ties between parent and child. Elisha (Avi Tayari) is a robot (his father tells him so in the first five minutes of the play). What follows is part adolescent fantasy as the child achieves ascendancy over the parents, and part foray into a maelstrom of emotion. If Elisha feels love, lust, anger, confusion, are these feelings real? Wittily the play explores both themes, and Tayari puts them across with finesse, handily abetted by Josh Sagi and Maya Grinberg who play the parents.
In Hitler, the second of the two plays, Debbi explores the idea of dominance and its vagaries in family relationships. Two sisters (Hadas Shai, Tal Levi ), one obedient, the other a rebel, live with their controlling mother (Keren Menahem). In her closet the girls find a Nazi uniform, the ultimate symbol of the destruction they become sure she plans for them. But events twist previous perceptions and the family's future. Here the ideas need honing and the acting is competent, but never more. Designer Nava Shetter makes a statement with her set. The three TV screens that form it are literally part of the furniture.
Nahad Bashir, who wrote the apocalyptic The Last Field, also plays the part of the Southerner, an artist who sculpts with plastic bottles. The last field is just that, the dirt-filled arena in and above which the Southerner, the general (Mahmoud Abou Jazi), the woman (Lana Zrik) and the scarecrow (Nidal Badarna) so ably play out the conflict between life and death, love and hate, and most important between mere survival and living. A war between North and South has been a Phyrric victory for the North. While the Southerner insists on love as a creative force, the general laboriously molds the (wonderfully) inanimate scarecrow in his own image. In the end, as in the beginning, nothing remains. Adel Abou Raya's direction is taut, the actors escalate the plays inherent tensions, and if it gets a little florid at times, it's because something is being said about man's appetite for self-destruction.
Come, Let's See
Written and directed by Or Azulai
Come, Let's See is the kind of experiment that is possible only at the Acre Festival. The audience of 24 persons is divided among six small cars that will tour Acre. But during the trip the drivers/actors speak to one another over their cell-phones and the car's passengers become involved in the driver's "personal" problems - in my car a more than fraught relationship with the driver's self-abusing sister reaches no resolution. Moreover the passengers are assigned personas - children, Ethiopians, a famous band - and towards the end, each of the drivers nips from car to car addressing the befuddled passengers as the various persons. Six characters - surely a nod to Pirandello - not in search of an author, but of meaning.
Because the passengers' actual conversation, comments, responses play no real part in the work, and they could have, because the "problems" were melodramatic and contrived, and because the cell-phone was a prop rather than the player it has become in our lives - these were 50 fairly pointless minutes. This is a pity, but Azulai deserves kudos for daring to try.
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