Monodrama festival celebrates 18 years of theater

This year, the festival is going to be an even bigger event with its nod to Israel's 60th anniversary.

Theater Review 88 (photo credit: )
Theater Review 88
(photo credit: )
In Jewish tradition, the number 18 invites good fortune, and the 18th TheaterNetto monodrama festival is no different. This year, the festival, which runs from April 22-24, is going to be an even bigger event with its nod to Israel's 60th anniversary. Held at the Arab-Hebrew Theater in Old Jaffa, the competition will combine with International TheaterNetto, bringing monodramas from Lithuania, Norway, Spain, Turkmenistan and the US. Four of the International TheaterNetto plays are in English, one has no words and the sixth is in Turkmeni, but that won't matter to those in attendance. Turkmen actor Anna Mele brings Lear, his acclaimed and very visual version of Shakespeare's great tragedy. Props including a rug, sand, a kerchief, stick puppets and a mirror help him tell the story in the style of his country's nomadic narrators, whose art he's trying to revive through his own theater company, Arawa. Anybody who remembers Dov Weinstein and his Tiny Ninja Theater will be able to relate to Head in the Clouds, a play without words by Spain's Xavier Bobes, who uses miniatures of all kinds to tell the story of a young woman abandoned by her lover. Though told through a child's eyes, this is no kiddie play. The plays in English include Ibsen's Women, starring Juni Dahr, one of Norway's most celebrated actresses. The play offers a feminist look at Ibsen's rebellious heroines. US actress, playwright and poet Sarah Jones has won the Tony, Obie, Helen Hayes and many other awards for her work in Bridge & Tunnel, in which she plays some 60-odd bizarre characters that frequent the New York café of that name. Comedienne Amy Salloway is a nice Jewish girl from Minneapolis whose autobiographical shows win laughs and plaudits. In Kiss Me Already Hershel Gertz, she tells of the summer she went unwillingly to Jewish summer camp "where even the mosquitoes wear a kippa," not to mention enduring the travails of adolescence. Last of the ladies is Lithuanian actress, director and poet Birute Mar, who brings The Lover, her multimedia, prizewinning adaptation of Marguerite Duras's semi-autobiographical novella about the doomed love between a 15-year-old French girl in Saigon and a young Chinese boy. The local monodramas encompass a wide range of subjects and are competing for an NIS 10,000 first prize. In Just Don't Pity Me, written and directed by Idan Meir, Shlomo Vishinsky plays Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian who abjured terror to join Fighters for Peace, a joint Israeli-Palestinian group of former soldiers. Then his nine-year-old daughter is killed by the IDF. In the play Bassam must choose between the path he has chosen and the revenge his son insists upon. This is a true story. "Itruf" is a made-up word denoting both island and madness. Adapted by 21-year-old Dana Idissis from a story by David Grossman and directed by her father Bentzi, Itruf stars much-underrated actor Eli Gorenstein as Shaul, alone in the desert, and battling with an old love, old memories and the essential loneliness that, according to Grossman, is man's lot. Why Me? looks with humor and without self-pity at a woman fighting breast cancer for the second time; The Wonderworker, adapted from the story by Isaac Bashevis Singer, and performed by Tel Aviv rabbi Eitan HaCohen, offers a contemporary take on a Jew teetering between two worlds, and in Le Vieux Juif Blonde by Amanda Steress, directed and translated by Elinor Agam Ben-David, a young Catholic violinist is also a 77-year-old survivor of Auschwitz. Additionally there's a star-filled gala opening night at Gan Hapisga that's free, two guest plays, and lots of free outdoor events including a happening put on by students of the theater department at Seminar Hakibbutzim that celebrates the Israel's 60th birthday in a series of vignettes on the plaza outside the theater. Kikar Kedumim is the other venue and families are invited to both.