Habima celebrates new season

Habima Theater rolls out new Israeli plays frosted with a couple of probable crowd-pleasers.

HABIMA THEATER’S ‘Jehu’ by Gilad Evron, based on the biblical tale of a rebel general. (photo credit: GERHARD ALON)
HABIMA THEATER’S ‘Jehu’ by Gilad Evron, based on the biblical tale of a rebel general.
(photo credit: GERHARD ALON)
Our national theater, aka Habima, is thinking big, not out of bombast but from renewed confidence in its abilities and capabilities, and not least from its audiences in Tel Aviv and around the country that approached one million in 2014.
Management is thinking ahead, presenting 27 new plays that will take Habima through the beginning of 2017. It continues to foster young talent, as well as explore and develop connections with theaters overseas – Habima artistic director Ilan Ronen has been president of the European Theater Association these last four year – despite the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
The line-up is the now customary mix of local and translated plays, about half each. Time was when originals plays were thin on the ground, and we’re only talking 20 years ago.
Original plays include the upcoming The Good Son by Shay Golden, a play about becoming a family, despite everything; Jehu by Gilad Evron, based on the biblical tale of a rebel general; Jacko by Ilan Hatzor, which will star the inimitable Ya’akov Cohen in the title role of a serial loser; an adaptation by Israel Theater Prize winner Hanan Snir of Haim Grossman’s monumental To the Edge of the Land; a revival in collaboration with the Cameri Theater of Hanoch levin’s equally monumental The Child Dreams; 20 years after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin comes young playwright Maya Arad’s 10 Minutes from Home, focusing on the year before. And another young playwright, Maor Zagori gives us Black Black on all aspects of violence.
Then we have The 9th Lover, a new play by Yehoshua Sobol based on the troubled life of psychoanalyst Sabine Spielrein and her relationship with Carl Jung, and another revival. It’s Fleischer by Yigal Even-Or premiered to an uproar at the Cameri in 1993 and deals with the takeover by the ultra-Orthodox of a secular neighborhood, a religious/secular conflict that still pertains today.
There are two musicals. One is Evita, on the tumultuous life of Evita Peron, and is coming this summer, and the other, for next year, is the iconic Les Miserables that hasn’t been off a stage somewhere since its 1985 premiere in London. Moshe Kepten, who is now a Habima in-house director, will direct both.
A new play, the first by UK playwright Mark Hayhurst, is Taken at Midnight, written for British actress Penelope Wilton. Here Gila Almagor will play the role of Irmgard, mother of Hans Litten.
Litten, a young and brilliant Jewish lawyer, had the temerity in 1931 to subpoena Adolf Hitler, and then ridicule him at the trial.
When Hitler came to power Litten was seized, tortured and eventually perished in Dachau despite the best efforts of his mother to get him released.
Another play on those dark days is an adaptation by the gifted Shahar Pinkas of Hans Fallada’s Alone in Berlin that deals with one heart-broken couple versus the might of the Third Reich.
Another toughie is an adaptation of Orwell’s 1984 to be directed by Irad Rubinstein, a young addition to the staff.
And on the lighter side, actor Natan Datner debuts as director with Norman, Is That You? (Happy Family in Hebrew), a comedy about a Dad who discovers his only son is gay; Christopher Hampton’s Dangerous Liaisons – who can forget Glenn Close as the scheming Marquise in the movie – and A Flea in Her Ear, a Feydeau farce with the usual scrambled identities and lots of doors! There are also a couple of festivals.
One is international aimed at young theater groups to age 35. Each participating country will hold its own festival with the winners going to Milan’s Piccolo for the finals in June 2017. There’s also a festival of plays from the various local drama schools. The winning production becomes part of Habima’s repertoire.
Best of all, Habima had an NIS 3 million operating surplus last year which is earmarked for debt repayment.