SUZANNA PAPIAN as Anne Frank in the play ‘Amsterdam Blog.’.
(photo credit: URI RUBINSTEIN)
What if you fell in love with someone you had never met in person? And what if you decided to meet them in a city far from your home? What if you arranged a time and a place, a train station, to finally come to face to face? What if they didn’t show up? And what if the person who did show up was the one and only Anne Frank?
In many ways, the act of writing and directing Amsterdam Blog was an exercise in “what ifs” and yet, beyond the situational curiosity of it, playwright Reuven Kalinsky touched on some very real and very charged emotions. The play premiered as part of the 2014 Acre International Fringe Theater Festival and has enjoyed a steady and critically acclaimed run since. Last night, Kalinsky brought the gusty solitude of Amsterdam’s canals to Jerusalem’s Beit Masie. On Wednesday night, Amsterdam Blog will return to Tmuna Theater in Tel Aviv before heading south to Beersheba’s Fringe Theater.
Kalinsky, 52, likes to take his time with his writing. The process for Amsterdam Blog took several years, with pauses and bouts of productivity.
“The process took place over three periods. The first was very associative. In the second, we did a live, directed reading at Beit Lessin (2008) and the third was about two and half years. It took time for it to come into itself,” explains Kalinsky over the phone.
The play begins with Shelly, a Jerusalemite photographer engaged in a yearlong selfie project.
A random Internet foray leads her to Alex, an Amsterdam-based blogger. The two women fall in love from a distance, exchanging lengthy emails and late-night chats. Shelly decides to leave her hometown in order to pursue the connection, only when she arrives at the meeting point Alex is nowhere to be seen. Instead, Shelly encounters a 15-year-old Anne Frank who is running away from the train platform.
“The play is a journey between fantasy and reality, loneliness and the search for connection.
The audience has a very powerful experience with this play. Everyone finds something different in it,” says Kalinsky. “I think there is a shared experience of going abroad, which is something that we do. An airport is an interim place. We go abroad, we leave the gravitational pull of Israel and I think there is a very initial experience, which is a feeling of complete release.”
The devastated Shelly, played by Noa Har Zion, finds herself pummeled by disappointment. In that space, Anne Frank, played by Suzanna Papian, attempts to provide a little comfort.
“A play and direction isn’t ever enough. There are metaphysical elements that are necessary. Creation is a meeting with people first and foremost, before and after everything. I had a lot of luck finding three amazing actresses. They are all meeting very extreme material and it requires a very high level of work. These three women are very committed to being total.
The process was very intense, we worked long hours in rehearsal, in fringe conditions and they were very open, talented and distinct.
Each woman has her own color and skill and together they are a very strong ensemble.”
Kalinsky admits that the viewer experience is demanding and at times trying. The play stands at an hour and forty-five minutes and includes many dark scenes.
The response, however, has been incredibly positive. “I had no idea what the outcome would be,” he says. “We’ve performed more than 40 times, which for a fringe theater piece is more than surviving.”
In what Kalinsky describes as one of his favorite moments in the play, Papian invites Har Zion back to her hiding place.
“No one gets to Amsterdam to hide behind a bookshelf. That I can do in Israel,” says Har Zion. “The play talks about that we live in a hiding place,” says Kalinsky. “It’s about how we get lost when we go out into the world.”
Amsterdam Blog will run at Tmuna Theater on February 24 (www.tmu-na.org.il) and at the Beersheba Fringe Theater on March 8 (www.fringeb7.co.il).