Theater Review: The New Criminals

Written and directed by Edna Mazya, The New Criminals is playing at Cameri Theater starting September 29.

The New Criminals (photo credit: Courtesy)
The New Criminals
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The New Criminals is a telenovela whose goal is farce, and with more schticks than a Borscht Belt comedian.
The Spectors are your normal middle class dysfunctional Israeli family. Dorina (Sandra Sadeh) is the one who holds it together, and she’s getting very, very tired of it. Her mother Anka’s (Rivka Michaeli) dementia advances relentlessly. Useless husband Arieh (Ohad Shachar) postures and blusters. Son Ilai (Michael Aloni) refuses to grow up, to the growing irritation of wife Sarit (Tamar Shen-Or), as does off-in-South America daughter Bambi (Yael Tal) who whines home for money.
There isn’t any. Not a dime. The apartment is mortgaged to the hilt. The family firm went bankrupt years back but Arieh still behaves as though the family is wealthy.
“There comes a point when a choice you make is irreversible,” muses Dorina, “and with me it came one Shabbat eve,” when her obtuse family so enrages her that she walks out on them. A chance encounter with gorgeous call-girl Naomi, aka Angel (Ruti Asarsay), effects a radical change in Dorina’s life. Nothing is ever the same, and as she undergoes a metamorphosis, so do her clothes, from drab and shapeless to smart and figure enhancing. Altogether Olga Smorgonski’s costumes complement their wearers’ natures, whether flamboyant (Angel) or strictly practical (Sigal, aka Roni Sheindorf).
Play and characters are manipulated for laughs, and let’s be fair, they come in waves. To the audience’s delight, Rivka Michaeli mugs Anka to the hilt. Sadeh and Shachar effect both a deadpan delivery, which works a treat, and deadpan characters that don’t. Aloni and Shen Or – Ilai and Sarit – stereotypically feud and make up. As Bambi, Yael Tal uses her voice effectively, first to whine, then to bully, and is the only one of the family who shakes a character from her role.
But it’s colorful and energetic Asarsay, her sidekicks Shaindorf and Neta Plotnik, who infuse The New Criminals with life. Absent the girls and their clients, the play lapses into torpor.
Mind you, it’s also wonderfully vulgar in parts. Audiences love a bit of that.