Theater Review: Gorodish

Written and directed by Hillel Mittelpunkt, Cameri Theater, December 19.

‘GORODISH’ (photo credit: CAMERI.CO.IL)
(photo credit: CAMERI.CO.IL)
He was the youngest Brigadier General in the IDF and on the fast track for promotion. He was everybody’s hero after the 1967 Six Day War. He was also arrogant, capricious and a bully.
People respected him but they also feared him, which was fine because fear is a great motivator. His new rank came with his new position, head of the crucial Southern Command which included the garrisons on the Suez Canal.
Then came the catastrophe.
The 1973 Yom Kippur War. He and his career crashed and burned together. The Agranat Commission made him the scapegoat for that war’s initial debacle. From hero to leper in a few short weeks.
He was Shmuel “Gorodish” Gonen. The man and his behavior epitomize everything that’s rotten here, from corruption to cover-up. The play premiered in 1994, 20 years after the Yom Kippur War. The revival follows Operation Protective Edge.
The play is magnificent. The production is magnificent. The acting is magnificent. This Gorodish packs a powerhouse punch that properly floors us, and should be required viewing for Those in Power. This play should make everyone who sees it acutely uncomfortable – and that should be every one of us, except the little kids.
Gorodish is a tragedy in the classical mode, focusing on the hubris, or overweening pride, that destroys its hero, and will destroy us unless we mend our ways. In the title role Natan Datner at once charms and repels. He blazes charisma and cowardice. In only one of the play’s astonishing metaphors, Gorodish can see Friedman (Yuval Segal), the young recruit his arbitrary orders drove to suicide, only when he himself is down and out; Segal’s pathetic, obstinate Friedman nags and marvelously nags.
But it’s Alon Dahan as Epstein, Gorodish’s sidekick, accomplice and friend who steals the show. He rails, he pleads, he insinuates, he maneuvers and inveigles. He gains the world and almost loses his own soul and completely deserves the ovation he gets at the end of an impassioned monologue.
There’s also a breathtaking drumming sequence that stands for the heady bravura of the Six Day War, Uri Vidislavski’s music, almost a character in its own right, and Roni Toren’s multilevel set with its burnt-slag rocks and a backstage that splits in two like the jaws of hell.
Gorodish – the moral and the marvel. Bravissimo, Mr. Mittelpunkt, cast and crew.