Israel's annual Int'l Fringe Theater Festival is all a buzz

Israel's annual International Fringe Theater Festival in Acre was filled with people from all over the country.

 SHOWS INCLUDING ‘11:11 P.M.’ at the International Fringe Festival, in Acre. (photo credit: ILAN SAFRA)
SHOWS INCLUDING ‘11:11 P.M.’ at the International Fringe Festival, in Acre.
(photo credit: ILAN SAFRA)

Acre was all abuzz on the first night of the annual International Fringe Theater Festival. It made for some interesting logistics and plenty of noise, largely of the healthy, merry kind.

For starters, walking from our municipality-provided accommodation, in an old vaulted and tastefully refitted Arab building, through the meandering alleyways of the Old City got us into the ambiance of this special historic spot on the Israeli map.

As we approached the performance areas, the number of eateries, souvenir stores and ad hoc food outlets proliferated and, after grabbing a delicious falafel, albeit after standing in line for a while, we headed for our first show.

That proved to be a little challenging as there was nothing in the way of signposts to advise us where to go. Eventually, after consulting a handful of passersby and festival employees, we found our way to the tent venue located in an old quadrangle surrounded by towering turreted walls and settled down to watch the 11:11 p.m. show created by seasoned actor-puppeteer Pablo Ariel and his Zikit Theater company.

Watching the production by Zikit Theater company

 SHOWS INCLUDING ‘11:11 P.M.’ at the International Fringe Festival, in Acre. (credit: Ofir Zigory) SHOWS INCLUDING ‘11:11 P.M.’ at the International Fringe Festival, in Acre. (credit: Ofir Zigory)

It was a fascinating multi-layered experience, with a mix of hand-operated puppets and human performers – Ariel and Nicole Mahler – and a broad swathe of styles, sensibilities and themes. Despite the sometimes sharp change in stylistic spirit, somehow it all flowed together.

There was also a sense of the audience members being drawn into the fabric of the onstage action and emotions. There were childlike passages and romantic slots bordering on the erotic, particularly in a nifty tango vignette, and Ariel and Nicole managed to convey ideas and feelings about the seesaw human condition in a feral and immediate manner.

The soundtrack which, except for the tango number, was compiled by Gustavo Bustamante and ran the gamut from Latin American folk through to blues, enriched the sensorial experience.

Sweet Inspiration, at the Diwan Hall, was a very different affair. The three-actor play, written by Guy Cohen, straddled the fine line between fiction and real life as a novice writer – played by Cohen – struggles to nail down a script based on a beloved improbably named dead poet called Hezy Lesky.

 SHOWS INCLUDING ‘11:11 P.M.’ at the International Fringe Festival, in Acre. (credit: YOHAN SEGEV) SHOWS INCLUDING ‘11:11 P.M.’ at the International Fringe Festival, in Acre. (credit: YOHAN SEGEV)

Relationships, real and imagined, emerge from the textual fabric as the storyline evolves. Lesky, played by trained dancer Michael Nimrod Peled, is a live-wire and generates sparks between the two men, with thinly disguised homoerotic underpinnings, and Cohen’s girlfriend (Tamar Hollander).

The creation of genuine art, reality and personal commitment are all front and center in a thoroughly entertaining and engaging work.