Theater Review: Men

The Fall is central to the funny, sometimes crude, ironic, poetic and ultimately very sober morality play that is Men.

Men Theatre (photo credit: Yael Ilan)
Men Theatre
(photo credit: Yael Ilan)
The Fall is central to the funny, sometimes crude, ironic, poetic and ultimately very sober morality play that is Men. A deep red apple taken early on from a plinth on Freda Shoham’s pure white set of movable panels, screens and boxes represents it, and the act itself takes place under the Tree of Knowledge, where Woman, clad in flaming red, persuades Man “to eat the fruit thereof.”
Symbolism and imagery permeate Men; the red and white, the “pissing” scenes, the black jacket removed from a black box presented to the protagonist between scenes. Is the box an analog of the mythic box Pandora opens? Does the jacket represent transition from expectation to expectation in the life of a man? Men is about what it means in our unforgiving world to be a man, to be a male creature, and of that creature’s relationship with his other half, with woman.
Did the creation of that separate entity leach from the man the softness implicit in his making? Or is it society that stunts him, reduces him to an unfeeling, aggressive, competitive caricature. Is that all there is, asks Men?
“Yet each man kills the thing he loves/Let this by all be heard/Some do it with a bitter look/Some with a flattering word/The coward does it with a kiss/The brave man with a sword.”
This desolate quotation from Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Goal is not the only one that occurred to me watching Men. Another quote is by Henry David Thoreau, who wrote the wellknown “Most men lives of quiet desperation... and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
And the men in Men do all of that.
Its form is modeled on Shakespeare’s “All the world’s a stage,” but that famous speech’s “seven ages” are here five scenes: the Child, the Soldier, the Bachelor, the Father and the Man. In each of the five, the five entirely awesome male actors in the cast take turns playing the protagonist while the rest play the other characters of that particular age.
They are Vitali Friedland, Ariel Wolf, Aryeh Tcherner, Jonathan and Roy Miller, and each of them makes a marvel of their roles, imprinting each with an intelligent and vibrant individuality.
The same is true of the equally awesome sole female, the Woman, who plays mothers, a soldier, a fiancée and in The Bachelor segment, a high-class Brazilian call-girl whose laconic responses have the audience almost rolling in the aisles.
She is the captivating Nili Rogel who, during the final scene, walks slowly across the stage wearing an elaborate red ball dress, the ultimate expression of Diti Ofek-Tzarfati’s canny, apt costuming.
Yair Vardi’s sensitive lighting and the music arranged by Kalati and Uri Bankhalter add luster to an already extraordinary production. Please don’t forget to breathe.