Theater Review: Acre Festival

Stains is about trauma and its consequences.

Salt Water 311 (photo credit: Courtesy of Yohan Segev)
Salt Water 311
(photo credit: Courtesy of Yohan Segev)
Stains is about trauma and its consequences.
A young soldier (Nadav Friedman – who’s also the director) is badly injured in a terrorist attack. He recovers from the injury but for some time is forced to urinate via a catheter which puts a crimp in normal life, both physical and emotional. Sheets, great piles of them, and single sheets in all colors whisked from the bed where the action takes place, are both set and metaphor. They signify transition, revelation, concealment, agony, triumph, shame, confusion, all the many changes and moods the character undergoes. The text pulls no punches. The difficult truths are there, laid out plainly but with wit and without sentimentality. Easily the jewel in the crown of this year’s festival.
Subtitled ‘a play in four rooms,’ Heart (which also takes place on a bed), is literally about the physical heart as the organ of life, in this case undergoing open-heart surgery, and about the symbolic heart as the organ of love, in this case non-existent, because the man under the knife, played with conviction by Eyal Schecter, hasn’t ever really loved, not even himself.
The play says “don’t waste your time or your life,” but with not quite enough substance.
In George Tabori’s 1987 farce Mein Kampf, translated from the German by Shimon Levy, a Jew called Herzl is actually the one responsible for setting Adolf Hitler on the road to his murderous destiny. Herzl (Shlomi Bertonov) lives in an underground shelter for the homeless. When Hitler (Ro’i Assaf), hoping to be accepted to the Viennese Art Academy, shows up at the shelter, Herzl befriends him, lends him his coat, fixes his hair and his mustache, even suggests he should write a book.
Director Gil Alon has created a wonderfully atmospheric environment (the audience sits on beds too). The show enthralls, even though it’s two hours without an intermission. Totally present, the actors speak their text as though they’d just invented it. Elad Roth has a star turn as chef Heinrich slaughtering, eviscerating and cooking a chicken, a visual of what’s to come. There are jokes, a lot of them, verbal and visual, and yet, when it’s over Mein Kampf leaves a bitter residue. It’s supposed to, I think.
Rather than audience imprisonment, intimidation is the name of the game in The Turn of the Ambassador’s Wife in which said wife is arrested and subjected to a field court-martial on trumped-up charges in a kangaroo court where arbitrariness is the presiding judge. During a tour of the Acre municipality building a vigilante posse in military fatigues appears and raucously takes charge. The audience is herded inside and proceedings begin. As in Tzfirmiyahui and Napoleon’s 2nd Invasion, the baldly put message is that our democracy is endangered.
Fortunately it was all over after an hour.