A scene from Anat Gov’s ‘A Warm Family’.
(photo credit: KFIR BOLOTIN)
When you have a dead husband, Tikki Dayan as the Jewish mother from Hell, Limor Goldstein as her beleaguered daughter – plus a supporting cast of deliberate oddities, not least a playwright of caliber of the late Anat Gov, let alone a champion-of-nuances director like Roni Pinkovitch, then you have a recipe for glee, which A Warm Family amply supplies.
Malka (Dayan) is expecting the family for Friday night dinner. All arrive: proctologist (a cheap joke but the only such) Arye (Liron Baranes), Malka’s son, his neurotic wife Miri (Adi Gilat), his macho Border Police officer daughter Tamara (Lorin Mosseri), his sister and Tamara’s mum, Masha (Goldstein). Late (as usual) are Arye’s son and Buddhist convert Omer aka Halik (Yotam Kushnir), who brings along his gentile Belgian wife Nathalie (Shiran Huberman) and their baby.
Presiding expositorially and benignly over all is Elik (Robert Hoenig), Malka’s late husband-father-grandfather.
During dinner, Malka apportions chores for the upcoming Passover Seder – (Where are you for the Seder? being one of the most fraught questions of Jewish family life) – when Masha drops the bomb. She won’t be here for the Seder.
This is where the frying pan hits the fire and our funny bone. The verbal and physical shenanigans gallop from the ridiculous to the improbable and back again, launched by Gov’s scalpel dialogue that mercilessly lays bare the myriad mutations of family relationships as the audience simultaneously guffaws and winces.
“Without the bonding of family you’re nothing,” fires Dayan.
“For you, family is a life sentence,” Goldstein retorts.
If there’s a flaw in Gov’s comedy, it’s that the duels between Dayan and Goldstein leave the rest of the cast swiveling their expressions from one to the other like spectators of a lengthy tennis rally. That said, Dayan is impeccable as Malka and she takes us with her. We root for her every utterance as we deplore the purpose behind it. The equally impeccable Goldstein takes on Masha as a second skin, giving manipulative Malka almost as good as she gets. Additionally, Huberman, who must maintain throughout the pretense of not understanding Hebrew, is nigh perfect as clueless, good-hearted, well-intentioned Nathalie.
Hoenig offers the exact measure of rueful omniscience as Elik, may he rest in peace. Baranes beautifully milks his rather dense Arye, a perfect foil for Masha and for Gilat’s high-strung, teetering Miri with a special plaudit to the unsteady body language. Mosseri’s Tamara is a bit stereotypically bluff and brusque, while Kushnir’s tender Omer/Halik is a tad understated.
Does Family, which first premiered in 2009, comment on what is going on in our country – that we are fraying, that unless we start once again to pull together were are done for? Of course it does.
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