(photo credit: Gerhard Alon)
There’s lots of atmospheric lighting by Amir Brener, a brilliant and mobile
scaffolding set by Roni Toren, its wrought iron railings, and tall windows
recalling the then abandoned (today very pricey) Arab homes of Jaffa, Ofra
Confino’s superb period costumes, imaginative movement by Oz Morag, a feisty
live orchestra, a personable leading man in Amos Tamam, an energetic,
rehearsed-to-a-fare-thee-well cast, an iconic theater piece and an audience
steeped in nostalgia.
It could be wonderful, yet here is a Kazablan
that’s all sparkle, glamour and technical excellence with nothing behind its
façade, a hollow counterfeit.
This production is such a West Side Story
clone, on which the original 1966 musical version of Kazablan was loosely based,
that you half expect to see Kaza’s gang break out with “Gee, Officer
Like West Side Story, Kazablan, which first appeared as a stage
play, is a Romeo and Juliet story, but the protagonists are not “alike in
The huge North African immigrations of the 1950s were Sephardi
Jews and Kazablan, while promising a rosier social future, acknowledged their
perception of themselves as underdogs, discriminated against by the mostly
Ashkenazi population, and even by other immigrants.
Kaza is Moroccan
immigrant Kazablan (Amos Tamam), nicknamed for his native Casablanca. Having
served with distinction in the paratroopers, Kaza has since become a minor hood,
terrorizing the run-down Jaffa neighborhood where he lives. His life begins to
change when not only is he framed for a robbery, but he also falls hard for
Rachel Feldman (Tamar Shem Or), an Ashkenazi girl – much to her father’s (Shlomo
But the municipality’s decision to tear down the
neighborhood and move the inhabitants to a development town, as well as a
meeting with his former commander, gradually inspire Kaza to change from brat to
grown-up, thereby earning his neighbors’ respect and Rachel’s love.
Amos Tamam. Director Tzarfati seems to have imposed a Kaza on him that the
actor, struggle as he might, cannot assimilate. This Kaza has nothing Israeli to
him, he’s a West Side punk, all strut and spikes, with so little hint of a real
person underneath that when one emerges, he seems equally
Character-by-the-numbers also seems to affect most of the other
players who turn out Sephardi/Ashkenazi stereotypes. The only ones who seem to
be having any fun are Itzik Cohen as narrator Moshiko, Vishinsky as Feldman and
Ohad Shahar as lecherous shoemaker Yanush Lukash.
And all this is a pity
because, although its approach is light-hearted, Kazablan is as relevant for our
time as it was when the Cameri Theater premiered the play in 1954.
the discriminees have changed.