A funny, touching romantic comedy

Hagi’s Ever is awkward, afraid, inhibited and uninhibited, brave and cowardly all wrapped in a charm that pokes from within and teaches him to listen.

Tom Hagi and Meyrav Shirom in 'Dancing Lessons'  (photo credit: REDY RUBINSHTAIN)
Tom Hagi and Meyrav Shirom in 'Dancing Lessons'
(photo credit: REDY RUBINSHTAIN)
‘DANCING LESSONS’
By Mark St Germain
Translated by Eli Bijaui
Directed and choreographed by Miri Lazar
Beit Lessin, 5/10/19

‘Only connect” is the recurrent theme of Howards End, C.S. Forster’s 1908 novel about class and convention in England, and connection is finally achieved between Ever (Tom Hagi) and Senga (Meyrav Shirom). Ever, a professor of geo-sciences, wants a dance lesson so that he can function appropriately at an awards dinner. Simple, no? Not really, because Ever has Asperger’s Syndrome, an adjunct of the condition known as autism. Although he functions at a very high level professionally and intellectually, Ever cannot connect, not physically, not emotionally. He can’t bear to touch or be touched by another person. He is verbally, well, indiscreet. He says things that others may not want to hear.
Senga – she was supposed to be Agnes but her aunt reversed the letters on her birth certificate – is a dancer, was a dancer, that is, because her leg is in a brace, but she won’t even entertain the idea that she may never dance again, because without dance, what is she, why is she?
Ever, and Senga, both damaged, both stunted, slowly, slowly learn that there’s more to life than their limitations. “Change requires courage,” says Ever bravely. “With courage anything is possible.”
And so it is. The emergence of both from the chrysalis of solitude and obsession that constricts them is what drives St. Germain’s often funny, often very touching, sometimes uncomfortable romantic comedy.
Ms. Lazar has not hurried (or constricted) her actors. She has allowed them room, has let them discover; both Hagi and Shirom have grabbed their opportunity and what we see are nuanced, truthful performances that show us the selves underneath the selves we let others see.
Hagi’s Ever is awkward, afraid, inhibited and uninhibited, brave and cowardly all wrapped in a charm that pokes from within and teaches him to listen. As Senga, Shirom is angry, resentful, aggressive, terrified and needy, but slowly, slowly, she too becomes willing to listen. And then they reach out, one to the other.
A huge window dominates Shani Tur’s diagonal interior set, a metaphor, perhaps, for the barriers that initially pen in the characters. It works, as do Shira Wise’s shlumpy costumes and Ms. Lazar’s musical arrangements. The latter sometimes form a backdrop for three dancers whose presence is entirely superfluous because the play, the actors and the direction do the job perfectly well, thank you.


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