Theater Review: Difficult People

Naor’s direction of Yosef Bar Yosef's “sort-of comedy” tiptoes too much, is too respectful and is almost glossy.

'Difficult People' 390 (photo credit: Courtesy)
'Difficult People' 390
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The difficult people of Bar Yosef’s “sort-of comedy” – which is how he defined it – are Simon (Moshe Ivgi), his spinster sister Rachel (Helena Yeralova) off of whom he sponges, imported suitor-from-Jerusalem Lazer (Halifa Natour) and eccentric landlord Benny (Selim Dau).
These are grey, stunted people inhabiting a circumscribed world, reflected in Lily Ben-Nachshon’s overly shabby, mud-colored apartment and Ofra Confino’s understated costumes. Simon wears a brown wide-pinstripe suit, looking like the spiv he is. Rachel a wears a shapeless blue dress, Benny’s in a cardigan and jeans, while Lazer’s navy-blue suit is just a bit too big for him.
Life seems a bit too big for Lazer. Simon has wrenched him from his native Jerusalem to become Rachel’s husband, seemingly ignorant of Benny’s inarticulate yearning towards her. Poor babes in the woods. Lazer isn’t equipped for the real world, addicted as he is to truth.
Neither is painfully shy Rachel, accustomed as she is to being put upon. And just as, against all the odds, Rachel and Lazer muddle toward an understanding, Simon-the-selfish puts a spoke in their wheels.
Difficult People is about ambitions, ambiguities, about the frailty of assumptions, about, in the end, spiritual pettiness.
Bringing a groom from Jerusalem to the Diaspora, suggests director Naor, is messianic, an intimation of what could be to what is. But people are difficult, and Simon can’t maintain the generous impulse that brought Lazer to his sister.
As Rachel, Yeralova is especially fine, her body language more eloquent than her words. Natour consciously underplays Lazer which makes him powerful, intensifying the character’s fearfulness. Ivgi’s Simon, while effective, is too pat, lacks edge.
The actor may know the end, the character may not. Selim Dau cameos sensitively as Benny.
And yet, this Difficult People doesn’t quite get there despite its excellent actors. Naor’s direction tiptoes too much, is too respectful, is almost glossy. Iconic though it is, Difficult People sheds blood and we need to see some of it on the floor.
Difficult PeopleBy Yosef Bar YosefDirected by Moshe NaorHaifa Theater, October 22