By Patrick Marber
Hebrew adaptation - Ilan Hatzor
Herzliya Theater Ensemble
Weill Center, Kfar Shmariyahu
Lack and longing, pie in the sky and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, drive the characters and events in Patrick Marber's multiple award-winning black comedy, Dealer's Choice. The gifted Ilan Hatzor, who translated and adapted the play, smoothly moved the action from the UK to Israel and calls it Poker.
Every week for the past 20 years, after the last of the customers has left his seedily pretentious restaurant, effectively rendered by designer Avi Shichvi, Avram co-opts his employees to play poker. This is no nickel and dime game - his workers' losses afford Avram the control over their lives he needs to fill the void in his own. Tonight is different. His people balk. His son Itzik, whose presence at the game is nearly their only link, wants out and won't say why. And when the game finally starts, there's a wild card, a professional gambler called Albert.
The game is in the stark and eerily shadowed cellar beneath the restaurant, a metaphor for the existential anxieties that now erupt from beneath the flow of funny one liners and visual gaggery. And make no mistake, under Yoav Michaeli's deft direction, it is funny.
As Avram, Gedalia Besser smoothly holds together his disparate crew through irony and the innate compassion that informs every role he plays. Oshik Levi handles Albert's amorality with cool aplomb. Sami Khouri's Franco, the hunk who dreams of riches and Las Vegas, is a stereotype, to whom Shlomi Kuriat as Ogi the cook provides a low key and touching contrast. Yonatan Zicholtz's fine body language gives us all Itzik's pathological lack of self-worth and as Kakush, the original sucker, Yaniv Nahmias steals the show. He runs the gamut from manic elation to stunned confrontation with himself in a performance that seems effortless.