A play about Hope in Zion

Is there room for hope in the promised land?

Habima Theater 521 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Habima Theater 521
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Hope (Hatikva)
Written & directed by Roni Pinkovitch
Habima, 13/5/18
This play is emphatically about us, and let’s face it, the horrible moral and ethical mess we have made of our Land, the Land we settled on in the late 19th century, the Land we fought for in 1948, ’56, the hubris-tainted ’67 and the almost lethal ’73. In Hope we are named Erez Danieli (Amnon Wolf), seeking the premiership of his country through a new party called Hatikva that promises to put us back on the straight and narrow, and that begs us (almost) to renew our commitment to truth and light.
Hope ostensibly follows the Zillov family and adjuncts through a century of turmoil on Niv Manor’s meticulously designed multi-purpose set, but their adventures are designed to, and do, bolster the main story line with the tried and true dramatic adage that “nothing is what it seems,” ingeniously employed. These adventures and the locales where they play out are abetted by Yoav Cohen’s very fine, very straightforward multi-screen videos – video seems now to have become indispensable to theater. On the one hand – why not? On the other – what’s wrong with imagination?
In the medieval world the mystery and the morality plays were employed to educate the illiterate masses. Our masses are not illiterate, but are often unthinking, a condition exacerbated by social media, which is why Pinkovich (perhaps unconsciously, perhaps not) blends the medieval genres in Hope.
The writing is excellent, one example being the series of deliberately unrelated questions young lovers Jewish Ella (Riki Blich) and gentile, gentle Seriojka (Daniel Demidov) ask each other in a game; questions that reveal their backgrounds, desires and feelings.
And this is where it gets clever, because the actors all play inter-related characters: Wolf also plays Abraham and Malchiel Zillov, the fathers of Ella and Cahya (Haya), played respectively by Blich and Rivka Gur, with Eyan Pinkovich playing both young Ella and young Cahya. Blich also play’s Danieli’s quadriplegic wife, the non-self-pitying Shira. And the characters keep getting themselves disastrously embroiled, as when young Cahya falls for young Yemenite immigrant Rahamim (Sheffi Marziano), or when Erez... sorry. No spoilers.
The acting? Let’s start with the one cameo in Hope; a scene between the very elderly Rahamim (Gabi Amrani) and the very elderly Cahya (Gur), played utterly exquisitely by two masters of their craft, leaving me with a fair-sized lump in the throat. Amnon Wolf manages his three characters, except for one episode of dire overacting, with power, restraint and truth. The two Zillovs are pretty similar, but then why wouldn’t they be, being cut from the same ancestral cloth? Tomer Sharon makes a memorable Rabbi Asher/Herman Kruk, the latter being the self-righteous hypocritical opposite of the Rabbi. Youngsters Demidov, Pinkovich and Marziano acquit themselves honorably, as does the rest of the cast.
This is not a great play but it very much catches the awful ambiguity of our time. That alone makes it worth seeing.
TEL AVIV Cocktail Week will take place May 27-June 2. (Jonathan Ben-Chaim)