Theater Review: 'Mike'

Mike tries very hard to chart not only the path of Mike Brant's life, but who he was.

Theater Review 88 (photo credit: )
Theater Review 88
(photo credit: )
Mike By Gadi Inbar Directed by Micha Lewensohn Beit Lessin February 21 Mike, billed as a play with music, tries very hard to chart not only the path of Mike Brant's life, but who he was. Initially dithering between drama and farce, the play finds a more consistent voice as events gather momentum. Born in 1947 to Holocaust survivors, Mike Brant died by suicide at 28. During his short life, his glorious tenor and his hunger for recognition and fame won him mega-stardom in Europe. In Israel he was largely ignored. The play starts and ends with Brant's funeral in Haifa. It relates to his life respectfully, sometimes very movingly, with the words of the songs, sung live, serving as emotional backup. On the other hand, Israel in the 1960s is parodied. The parody extends in part to Mike's mother, which creates difficulties for Yona Elian-Keshet, who stumbles when she has to play the stereotypical Polish Mama. Yet her Bronya Brand (Mike changed his name from Brand to Brant) is also a woman who can barely hold herself together, and when the text allows her, Elian-Keshet is magnificent. Comfortable and effective in their parts are Shlomo Vishinksy as Mike's Dad, Shimon Mimran as the impresario Weintraub, and Avi Salame as Manuel. But it's the actor playing Mike who must hold the play together. Dan Shapira is likeable, mightily talented and sings Brant's hits beautifully. However his portrayal of the singer illustrates rather than embodies Brant's charisma. As he grows into the part, perhaps he'll tap into the bottomless need that fueled his appeal. Kinneret Kisch's set is world class, Yossi Ben-Ari's costumes contribute to the period feel and canny Micha Lewensohn knows how to ratchet up tension. Mike is sure to be a hit, but it lacks some of his heart.