Big city aspirations

Starring in an off-off Broadway production, Meital Dohan satires an Israeli's quest to make it big in Manhattan.

'I want to talk American, but I don't have the R's,' a lingerie-clad Meital Dohan kvetches from a waterless bathtub. "I only have the "Rrra, Rrro, Rrru," coughs the Israeli actress with a thick Hebrew trill. That's how we find the energetic Dohan in "Bath Party," her latest project and second theatrical appearance in the States. The show is a multi-media satire of a foreign diva's quest to make it as an actor in New York City and it began a modest run Off-Off Broadway in New York this August, attracting decent crowds and mixed reviews. Dohan, 27, co-wrote the piece (with director Karen Shefler and Ayelet Dekel) essentially as a comedic one-woman show, featuring herself as monologuist, dancer, comedienne, seductress, storyteller and satirist of her own life, though two other characters do share her stage (a meek Korean maidservant played by Susan Hyon and a gay Texan stage manager played by PJ Mehaffey, both talented and good for laughs). The symbolic centerpiece of the story is a claw-footed bathtub in which the half-naked and gorgeous Dohan recounts the dramas of her life with a solid tongue-in-cheek. "This show is pretty interesting, basically. It's about me," she announces after her first entrance. She then parodies the various difficulties of her career (though those difficulties aren't especially unique or profound), including an exceedingly clever bit where she simulates cell-phone calls to her parents abroad and demands of their videoed selves why they never pushed her to be on Festigal, the Israeli version of Star Search. She describes her half-ironic fantasies of success in America, broadcast through a video sequence of her happily devouring a McDonald's hamburger and prancing around Manhattan in American flag sox and a complete "I Love NY" tourist outfit to the upbeat theme of Boston's "More Than a Feeling." Later, she sips Starbucks coffee and hallucinates images of herself projected onto Times Square's giant billboards. As a work of satire - of herself, of divas and their self-absorption, of show business - the play is often witty and funny. As a narrative or useful comment on anything - America, immigration, some larger theme - it has little punch. The second half falls apart into a focus-less slapstick culminating in a metaphorical American melting pot, as a diverse group of actors gather around the bathtub and share a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. But, despite the show's ultimate superficiality, the radiant Dohan still often succeeds in captivating the adoring audience. She proves that, beyond sex-appeal, she is also a gifted comic, a decent dancer and an eccentric who doesn't take herself too seriously. In a brief interview after the show, she was thoughtful and somewhat reserved. She noted that she's been back and forth between Israel and New York for two years now. In Israel, "I was part of both mainstream productions and more avant-garde shows. In New York, I'm expressing my own adventures. As an artist, you create from whatever you're going through [at that moment]." "I'm very happy and excited about the project," Dohan continued, "especially in nights that I get response from other people that can identify with my story and the subjects we are dealing with." Next, she'll return to Israel to work on a TV series called Elvis.