Theater Review: Frida

Written and directed by Avichai Hacham, Habima, July 3.

The Habima Theater in Tel Aviv (photo credit: WWW.HABIMA.CO.IL)
The Habima Theater in Tel Aviv
(photo credit: WWW.HABIMA.CO.IL)
Frida Kahlo (1907–1954) was a hugely gifted painter, an intelligent, complex woman who was probably always too big for the time and milieu in which she lived.
None of that, not an iota, is visible or even hinted at in the travesty that is Frida. On the contrary, she is portrayed mainly as preyed upon. Only in the relationship between Frida, played with dignity and intensity by Liraz Tcherchi, and her husband, the celebrated painter Diego Rivera, whom Assaf Goldstein more or less robs of any real personality, does something real creep in. There’s a moving scene in which only their despairing hands talk.
Frida skips from disaster to disaster in Kahlo’s life – the polio, the crippling accident, the infidelities – oh, and incidentally, the painting.
Neither Kahlo nor Rivera respected their wedding vows but their sexual profligacy did not define their marriage, as Frida illustrates with a too prurient glee. And that’s the trouble with this ambitious dance-theater piece; it illustrates, it does not show.
Everything is on the surface, facile and certainly too loud. The music ably chosen/ created by Miri Lazar and Johnny Goldstein belts forth at disco volume.
Gili Algabi’s costumes become charming with the women in fluttery dresses and the men in (as for flamenco) in dark pants and light shirts, but for the dance sequences at the start of the piece all wear form-fitting white unisuits that look like underwear. Oh dear.
Eran Atzmon’s dramatic set both provides atmosphere and allows the necessary freedom of movement, Karen Granek’s lighting provides heart and the dancing – there’s a lot of it – is at all times superb.
Frida could have been a small treasure.
It’s a pity that Avi Hacham chose bombast.