Theater Review: A Dog Called Balak

Based on ‘Yesteryear’ (Tmol Shilshom) by S.Y.Agnon.

A dog Called Balak
(Kelev Hutzot)
Based on ‘Yesteryear,’
by S.Y.Agnon
Adapted and directed
by Udi Ben-Sa’adia
Tmuna Theater, May 19
‘Sonya was peculiar at that moment. Her mouth was open and her tongue peeked from between her lips as though licking, tonguing…”
That sentence, taken from Agnon’s Yesteryear (Tmol Shilshom), pervades Udi Ben-Sa’adia’s production of A Dog Called Balak – like an itch.
Isaac Kummer (Eran Sarel) and Sonya, danced by Maya Stern, have been lovers. Her flesh, her presence, haunt him. He sees her everywhere and in everything, even in Balak, the peculiar cur that attaches itself to Kummer, a cur that symbolizes both his lust and his sin, because Maya is another’s wife. Kummer, unable to settle, prowls Jerusalem hither and yon, and in the end is fatally bitten by Balak.
Sarel, as he narrates the text, holds nothing back. His Kummer is shambling, pot-bellied, unattractive, tormented by desire, in heat like the dog that dogs him. He is very believable. Dressed in an inappropriate, unattractive and ill-fitting rose-colored slip, Stern writhes and slithers as Sonya, who is present only in Kummer’s fevered brain.
They maneuver among Dana Tzarfati’s set of ceiling-to-floor elastic ropes and are immensely aided by Yuval Messner’s suggestive music.
Overall, unfortunately, the production entirely lacks the arching sensuality and the eroticism that I think director Ben-Sa’adia is looking for, and that the text implies. What we get is a smutty postcard.