Festival Review: Acre Festival

Yonatan Kunda, Neta and Raz Weiner use spoken word to create a text that is an effervescent, often hilarious riff on language.

WE’RE BUILDING A PORT HERE 370 (photo credit: Yohan Segev)
(photo credit: Yohan Segev)
"One day we won’t need so many words to be Jews,” says one of the three high-octane actors in the very political We’re Building a Port Here, the idea being perhaps that we won’t need to apologize, boast, make excuses for or otherwise explain who and what we are. Unless, of course, we manage to destroy ourselves first.
Yonatan Kunda, Neta and Raz Weiner use spoken word to create a text that is an effervescent, often hilarious riff on language, just as their costumes by Michal Kapluto are equally an exuberant riff on shtetl garb.
Nothing escapes. From excessive name-dropping to security-with-a-capital S, authors Anna Cohen-Yanai, Kunda and Neta Weiner expertly flay our every fear, pretension and sacred cow. It’s a bit overlong, a preachy moment here and there, but oh boy, is it fun.
Despite the presence of a sterling cast giving it their all, David Kigler in the title role, Florence Bloch as his adoring secretary, Rachel Dobson as the archetypal Jewish Mother, Dina Bley as the doctor, Yossi Toledo as brother John and Albert Cohen totally wasted as a clownish messenger from the Next World, David Kigler: His Life and Death, written and directed by Oded Lifschitz, is a banal and predictable play within a play about emotional identity.
Kigler, a frustrated and unhappy insurance salesman, is called to the deathbed of his younger, but always more successful brother John. Things go awry, though, because John not only recovers but takes his brother’s girl. A rather long 75 minutes.
Poisoned Hyssop (Haralat Za’atar in Hebrew) by Ala Halihal combines traditional and allegorical Arab puppet theater with the Western tradition.
Za’atar seller Yussuf (Misreh Masri) contends his product is one of those miracle herbs that does everything from curing stomach upsets to aiding coexistence.
Always amiable, some might say fawning, he creates little shows to that effect for his Jewish customers with the aid of his puppet, Sesame (Henry Andreus). But not tonight.
Sesame forces Yussuf to acknowledge the true misery of his condition, and it kills him. The show tells rather than shows, and Masri overdoes it a bit.
As Sesame, Andreus is as polished as Fred Astaire (and dances a bit like him too).
Where Shmuel Hasfari uses symbols and allusions to get something of the same point across, new playwright Daniel Zehavi utters a scream of pure anguish, and his Dawns suffers thereby. It shrieks that not only has Israel betrayed every single principle that buttressed its founding, but has become a vicious and brutal tyranny.
Dawns means “1,000 sunrises,” and at each sunrise another enemy is executed at this isolated killing ground where each soldier must remain for a 1,000 days before he is relieved.
Except that this time there’s a new medic whose humanity is still pretty intact, who unconsciously violates the “norms,” which, as they’re revealed, move from surrealistic to a mind-numbing routine.
Daniel Shapira produces a stunningly sensitive portrayal of a desensitized automaton for whom a final killing is just too much, complemented by Yinon Shazo as the condemned, Elad Rotem as the medic and Shahar Zakai as the Officer.