Habima Theater 521.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Promised Land is passionate, sincere, ingenuous. The Promised Land is
predictable, clichéd, disingenuous. Both statements are true. Neither tells all
the story of this flawed but oh so very fine production.
The title itself
is a bitter irony because for the refugees that do manage to get here in one
piece, Israel is mostly anything but a promised land.
In 13 scenes
tells the stories of three sets of refugees from their mouths and
through the people, places and situations they encounter along the way. There’s
12-year-old Nadek and her mother, Ali Adam, and the boy, Emanuel, all
Oded Ehrlich, Na’ama Armon, Leah Gelfenstein, Harel Morad,
Elinor Flaksman, Shahar Raz and Yuval Shlomovitz are the actors, playing all the
many parts from terminally obtuse and ignorant Israeli officialdom to vicious
militia to concerned locals to the refugees themselves. Each of the cast is
magnificent with the actor playing Ali Adam heading the list. That the work
matters is obvious. The actors give themselves utterly to each of their several
roles, yet manage to keep the necessary distance between player and
More than credit is due to director Pitowsky whose
choreography of actors and events is, as it was in the Nose
, inventive, fluid,
expressive and economical. He and his Young Habimans do wonders with very
little. Here it’s chairs, clothes and a wire mesh fence.
The most moving
moment in Promised Land
comes towards the end of the show in a segment called
“seeking relatives,” in Hebrew “mador lechipus krovim.” In it
present-time refugees and past-time Holocaust survivors seeks news of their
loved ones over the radio. In the 50’s and early ’60s Mador
was a daily fixture
on Israeli radio.
The corollary is obvious. “Remember that you
were slaves in the land of Egypt,” the Pessah Seder commands us. Promised Land
tells us in no uncertain terms that not only do we ignore that admonition but
that we have forgotten the suffering that brought so many of us here in the
And this is where Promised Land
falls down. It is all so
unrelentingly earnest, such a catalogue of cruelty, woe and tragedy, so
obviously an indictment of current government policy. It’s all too much on one
note for which a little leaven is required; half a cup of humor, a tablespoon or
two of light amid the darkness.