Azulai the Policeman
By Ephraim Kishon
Adapted from the film by Daniel Lapin
Directed by Micah Lewensohn
The best scene in Habima's production of Azulai the Policeman takes place in Amar's (Shlomi Koriat) restaurant where he showers hospitality on Azulai (Moni Moshonov) and his wife Betty (Ruth Landaw). It has the tongue-firmly-in-cheek humor that's unhappily mostly missing from this stage adaptation of Kishon's iconic film.
This Policeman lacks irony. It is too earnest, too anxious, overburdened by its illustrious forebear - just as Neta Haker's brilliant set of towering, moveable concrete canyons and steel shutters overshadows the players.
In Policeman, as in all his plays and films, Kishon enlists our complicity for the goings-on, which poke relentless yet merciful fun at Israeli society.
Terminally inept, the good-hearted Azulai has walked the same Jaffa beat for 20 years. Nobody wishes him ill except his superiors, who want to boot him off the force. In a panic at the prospect of losing such an asset, Jaffa's crooks decide to stage a robbery that even Azulai cannot fail to foil. His superiors reward him with a sergeant's rank, but fire him just the same.
Moshonov is a brilliant, inventive actor, but here he is miscast. His Azulai seems to sit uneasily on him, as if he's constantly looking over his shoulder. Because the character is the comedy's central focus, Moshonov's dis-ease spreads to the rest of the cast, except for Gabi Amrani, imperturbable as Albert, Elinor Flaxman, appealing as Mimi and Pini Kidron, who plays Azulai's direct boss and nemesis, Sgt. Bejerano.
That said, Moshonov's appeal and charm should ensure that the production is a long-running hit.