Theater: Ghosts and guests

Clipa Theater performs the eerie ‘Anyone Home’ at Bialik House.

By ORI J. LENKINSKI
January 12, 2017 17:46
2 minute read.
Clipa Theater

Clipa Theater performs the eerie ‘Anyone Home’ at Bialik House. (photo credit: PR)

 
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Urban legend has it that Bialik House in central Tel Aviv is one of the most supernaturally charged structures in the Middle East.

With its wrapping staircase and deep crimson walls, the home-turned-museum stands out from its fellow edifices on picturesque Bialik Street.

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The plot of land where the house stands today was purchased by Hayim Nahman Bialik in 1925. It was just a sandy passage adjacent to a hotel that was under construction.

The national poet, then 52 years old, enlisted architect Joseph Minor to turn the dune into a dream house. Minor came to be known as a pioneer of Hebrew architecture, combining Western influences with local trends. Two years later, Bialik and his wife, Mania, moved in. The childless couple lived in the house until Bialik’s death in 1934, followed soon after by Mania’s.

“When I died,” lilts Betsalel Borokhov, dressed as the ghost of Bialik, “they turned the room that was mine and Mania’s into a children’s room.”

Borokhov leads the way into the toy-filled chamber where Rotem Katz and Michal Esther Katzir playing “The Dream Poet” and “The Bird” sing/recite Bialik’s “Across the Sea” to each other. Audience members crowd in behind them, craning necks and standing on tiptoe to get a good look at the action. From the hallway, shouts ring out, doors slam shut, dresses rustle past. In the dim lights on this chilly evening, rumors of spirits afoot in the historical landmark seem plausible.

Moments later, Katz and Katzir slip out onto the second-floor landing. Below, on the grandiose staircase, Yoni Tal dressed as Bialik’s servant and assistant and our guide, Bialik’s famous canine companion Kapi as played by Zvi Peterkovski, join Borokhov in a klezmer ballad.



Borokhov masterfully squeezes an accordion as the three sing in unison. Viewers flood out, and at times actor and audience blend together to make one spooky mass.

In this way, in bouts of movement and eerie stillness, Clipa Theater’s Anyone Home creeps through Bialik House, invoking ghosts, ghouls, urban legends and national history.

The production premiered last week, on the eve of the 144th anniversary of Bialik’s birth, and follows in a line of site-specific, musical-theatrical events presented by Clipa. The Tel Aviv-based theater company has a knack for the bizarre, and Anyone Home is a beautiful example. Directed by Ariel Bronz and Idit Herman, the production literally and figuratively keeps the audience members on their toes.

In creating the show, the two combed through Bialik’s mass of work, carefully selecting poems as inspiration for each scene. The tour passes through each room of the house, in which the formidable actors recite, sing and whisper Bialik’s writings. Adi Hana Paz, playing Bialik’s lover, provides some comic relief, toking away at an electric cigarette while punching endless holes in the foyer/office/gift shop. Thrilling costume, makeup and styling work makes it nearly impossible to tear one’s eyes aways from the cast.

Above all, Clipa has done a superb job of blending genres.

Anyone Home seamlessly links theater, dance, music, song, poetry, storytelling and mystery in what promises to be one of the most memorable theatrical events of the year.

‘Anyone Home’ will be performed on January 17, February 21 and 28 at Bialik House in Tel Aviv. For more information, visit www.beithair.org.

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