Fizzling in the excellence

TheaterNetto 2018’s winners and plays

‘EVERY MOTHER’: Corrine Wallach was recognized with an honorable mention (photo credit: TSVI SHANY)
‘EVERY MOTHER’: Corrine Wallach was recognized with an honorable mention
(photo credit: TSVI SHANY)
There was a snap, crackle and pop to this year’s TheaterNetto monodrama performances, the festival being the brainchild of veteran producer Ya’akov Agmon and the 28th of its kind. It fizzed in the excellence of the acting and the imagination in execution – present at least in the six of the 12 plays in competition that I managed to see. Ditto for the free show on the plaza that had Seminar Hakibbutzim drama students together presenting a musical satire on Israel today whose theme was “there will be nothing because there was nothing.”
There were four winners. First prize went to actresses Lamis Amar for Wadi Milach – “powerful and amazing acting;” Nina Kottler for Remaining Alice – “a veteran actress at the apex of her artistic power;” Honorable Mention went to Corinne Wallach for Every Mother – “vibrant and innovative stage language;” and to Shahar Netz for How to Be Happy in 10 Stages – “beautiful, poetic, humorous” (the above quotes are from the judges’ opinions).
Murphy’s Law ensured that I saw only two of the four winners’ performances, those of Amar and Wallach. Ms. Amar could read the telephone directory and make it sound like Shakespeare. She is also dropdead gorgeous and has presence/charisma in spades. Perhaps it would have been better if she had read the directory because Orna Akkad’s play was banal, predictable and rather offensive. Replying to the Swedish Academy that has just presented her the Nobel for literature, Palestinian poet Ayat Siti flashes back to her youth in a patriarchal Arab village, her crush on, and eventual rape by Shaul, a Jewish youth counselor in his 50s. Oh, please!
In her Every Mother, Wallach is selling a house. It comes complete with her three children, cleverly represented by three children’s backpacks – “I love my diamonds [her kids], but not on me”. This is dance theater, which Wallach executes with grace, humor, not a little pain and not a little irony. Every Mother examines motherhood in its many aspects. For the purpose, Wallach should perhaps have used fewer of them.
The Hidden Question might well have raised more than a hackle or two! The play, by Hagit Nikolayevsky, concerns an actual speech by Hebrew teacher Yitzhak Epstein (Maayan Rahamim) regarding our relations with the Arabs. He made the speech at the 7th Zionist Congress in 1907 and was booed off the stage. The play contains parts of the speech verbatim and Mr. Rahamim delivers it with assurance and restraint. He also teaches the audience a Hebrew song or two from the period, accompanying us on the accordion. Compelling.
Based on far too much of Kafka’s The Trial, Judgment Day drags because personable young actor Oshri Cohen remains on maximum rpm throughout and his nervous tics become cloying. Nonetheless, as he abjectly begins to beg forgiveness for everything he’s ever done or thought, he does demonstrate how the System can break us.
The Seder, written and acted by Noa Bell, is an agglomeration of worn clichés from the mentally ill father to the sexually abusive elder brother. What saves this play from complete bathos is Ms. Bell’s sensitive and imaginative performance, not least the echoing, intrusive traditional Seder songs, like “Had Gadya.”
Mali’s Show is embarrassingly poor and clichéd. It is also spurious, because in relating the sad life of homeless Mali, a mentally challenged bag lady who talks to objects as people, actress Sagit Segal illustrates rather than shows, using a high babyish voice that quickly becomes annoying. Mali needs to be revealed for who she is, not just what she does. A pity.