'Three Queens and a Concubine'.
(photo credit: NOA LIVNAT)
Michal (Zahala Michaeli), daughter to Saul, the first king of Israel, is the linchpin of Three Queens and a Concubine because her relationship with David runs the gamut from adolescent passion to hatred and an ironic objectiveness to what he has become.
“When I said ‘goodbye’ to you, I was never closer, but now that I am near you, it is as though I were afar.”
The two books of Samuel in the Bible tell the stories of Saul and David and read like the most lurid of soap operas; actually the women in Gabriella Lev’s visually exquisite rendering get the better of David, which earns his respect. Yet neither David nor Lev’s poetic script – much of it taken verbatim from Samuel I and II – respects the women for who they are, but rather for what they do.
There’s Abigail (Alona Habar), wife of the brutish Naval, who loads donkeys with food and drink which she brings to David so that he won’t kill her husband, then when the Lord conveniently “smites” Naval she becomes one of David’s wives. Then there’s Batsheva (Tehila Yishayahu Edga), the wife of Uriah the Hittite, and we all know that one. This, to me, was the most lyrical scene of a work that is a rich, moving tapestry.
Finally we have Saul’s concubine Ritzpa (Dana Kotchrovsky), whose two sons plus five others of Saul David gives the Gibeonites to be executed to end the drought. Ritzpa can’t abrogate the sentence, but she ferociously guards the bodies so that scavengers don’t defile them, which forces David to give them decent burial.
The women work beautifully together with both physical and emotional grace, at once inside and outside the roles. They have opinions about what they do (courtesy of Lev), but not where they want to go with their actions.
The haunting music and songs are by Nadav Lev and the sometimes enveloping yet restrained video art is by Matan Gerdstein.
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The equally restrained yet glowing costumes are by Etty Ben-Hur and the stately choreography – yes, they dance – is by Liron Ben-Yaakov and Maya Yogel.
Three Queens and a Concubine tells a story about four women, and although it doesn’t seem to go beyond saying that women matter, it does, in a way, wonder why we don’t matter more to ourselves.
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