Theater Review: A MOUNTAIN DOES NOT MOVE By Gilad Evron

Directed by Irad Rubinstein, Beit Lessin, Tel Aviv, July 27.

‘A Mountain Does Not Move’ (photo credit: GADI RUBINSTEIN)
‘A Mountain Does Not Move’
(photo credit: GADI RUBINSTEIN)
The play takes place in 16th-century feudal Japan and is, of course, a parable of our lives and mores here. The mountain of the title is the land-hungry Takeda, a clan leader whose military ambitions aspire to the capture of Kyoto, the imperial capital; but in a crucial battle on the way, he is mortally wounded.
“Keep my death a secret for three years,” he orders his samurai, “lest the enemy be emboldened to march against you.”
To do that requires a Takeda in place. By a strange coincidence, a captured thief (played by Yoram Toledano, giving the performance of his life) is his exact double, so he is bullied and threatened into compliance by the dead man’s brother, Itami (Nimrod Bergman), and his implacable samurai lieutenant, Murata (Daniel Brusovani). Eventually he is deemed ready and is taken to the Takeda’s palace, where he must successfully fool the first wife, Kyoko (Yael Vekstein), son Yamada (Shadi Mar’i) and the heir, Maso (Amit Moreshet).
Itami warns him, “You’re a thief. You’ll always be a thief. If you forget that, you won’t be able to play the Takeda.”
But pretense is tricky because truth (aka reality) tends to insinuate itself with unforeseen, sometimes disastrous, results, as happens here. Its metaphor is a pellucid fabric river pulled slowly across the stage whose color slowly turns to blood.
Its creator is set designer Paulina Adamov; her set for the play is extraordinary. There are three curved screens on wheels, five meters high, covered with a rusty scrim, that reveal, conceal, bedevil and bewilder according to how they’re moved. They become the maze that is the palace, Kyoko’s bedchamber, the council room. When the scrim is opaque, huge shadows menace. When it’s transparent, we often glimpse what we should not.
Evron based his play on Akira Kurasawa’s film Kagemusha (1980), taken from events in Japanese history.
The technical staff – costume designer Maor Tzabar, composer Roy Yarkoni, lighting technician Ziv Voloshin and stage battle coach Uri Bustan – have successfully created the aura of 16th-century Japan, spiced by deliberate anachronisms like sunglasses, zippers and a chestful of medals.
As for the acting, Toledano dominates the stage. His character is both larger than life and diminished by it. His character adapts in seconds, from terrified to confident, to wary, to tender, all underpinned by a nobility that grows and grows. He deserves every award going! Vekstein is both vulnerable and steely-courageous as Kyoko; Bergman is a properly wary, politically astute Itami; and Brusovani’s Murata is marvelously arrogant.
It’s almost superfluous to add that the laurels for this production must go to director Irad Rubinstein, whose opening scene is breathtaking. But then, so is the entire show.