knives in hens 88.
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Ari Remez's staging of David Harrower's time-stripped play is impeccable. Lily Ben Nahshon's nearly bare stage enables the audience to concentrate on the action. The protagonists wear mud-colored clothes that look like winter hedge-rows - the costuming is also by Ben Nahshon - with long, shapeless sweaters over them that resemble chain mail, armoring them, and then, when they come off, rendering them so vulnerable. Hani Vardi's focused lighting reveals and obscures, animates and stills.
But this should and could have been a production that grabbed and held the intellect as well as the senses, because Knives in Hens is about the transformative power of language wrapped in a story of love, lust and murder. The setting is a small and God-fearing village. The three characters are a Young Woman (Orit Zafran), her ploughman husband Pony William (Emanuel Hanun) and the outcast village miller (Rodya Kozlovski). Like Mephisto tempting Faust, the miller proffers language, offers vistas, enflames and is enflamed.
The words matter; they drive this play, and if they do not, then the production cannot work as it should. Of the three actors, Kozlovski's miller comes closest. Diffidently revelatory, he puts the words out there and lets them spin. Pony William cannot be the caricature peasant that Hanun made of him most of the time, for he too knows the use of language, even if for him it limits rather than expands. It is this sense of expansion that Zafran's Young Woman lacks. She does not catch the soaring the words enable. Knives in Hens is not about subtext, it is the text itself.