The cost of living

By Martyna Majok, Translated by Avi Golomb, Directed by Eldar Groisman-Gohar & Ido Ricklin, Beersheva Theater, January 3.

‘THE COST of Living.’ (photo credit: MAAYAN KAUFMAN)
‘THE COST of Living.’
(photo credit: MAAYAN KAUFMAN)
The title of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Cost of Living is a pun, the cost being not monetary but the human price that is exacted from us for life, a price painfully wrested from the play’s four protagonists. Do the surviving two learn its value? Perhaps.
Alon Neumann plays Eddie, a long-time trucker, now unemployed because he lost his license. He has no other skills. Adva Edni plays Ani, his bitter, foul-mouthed quadriplegic ex-wife, dead when we first hear of her from desperately lonely Eddie talking to a stranger in a bar. Then there’s Inbar Danon playing part-time barista Jess, desperate, near destitution, who needs another job, and is seeking to be the caregiver for a spoiled rich-kid John, who Tom Avni portrays. Tom suffers from cerebral palsy, and doesn’t want a professional care-giver because they’re easier to sue.
We watch the two couples’ separate and episodic story-line as each learns to take care of and be taken care of by their initially inept carers. This takes place as a mutual interdependence, perhaps even a relationship, develops and improbably, Eddie and Jess finally meet.
Neta Haker’s clever set is a huge, stage-spanning window, (perhaps meant to convey a window on an uncaring world?) and a bare stage onto which set-pieces trundle, all except for the electric wheelchairs, who are operated with one finger by their occupants and loom in the room, because disabilities take center stage here. Not the physical kind, rather the emotional ones we’re all prey to. And whom do we have, except each other, as the play’s flyer suggests.
What’s most remarkable about the Cost of Living is the totally truthful, totally wonderful performance by all four actors. They, rather than the play, rivet. Edni and Avni mine their characters to bedrock as do Danon and Neumann with theirs. They actually talk with, rather than at, each other. They listen to each other. They do not illustrate their feelings, their fears, their frustrations, their selves, they show us; even in that improbable last section when, now unemployed again, Eddie and Jess finally connect. We wish them well.