Theater review: ‘The Revisionist’

By Jesse Eisenberg; translated by Dori Parnes; directed by Avishai Milstein; Bet Lessin, August 20.

‘The Revisionist’ (photo credit: GADI DAGON)
‘The Revisionist’
(photo credit: GADI DAGON)
One is tempted to ask what is the point of this mostly two-character encounter, set in Poland, between the elderly Maria (Liora Rivlin) and young David (Vitaly Fridland).
Pothead David, a published but basically failed sci-fi author, has come to stay with Maria, a second cousin, in order to revise his new novel.
Maria, a Holocaust survivor, leads a lonely and monotonous life, tempered by TV and unending calls from charities soliciting funds.
These disparate characters have nothing in common.
David is a spoiled, self-absorbed brat. Maria hides a secret that she reveals only because David, in a fit of pique, has turned to the wall the numerous family photos in his room.
There’s also a third character: gruff taxi-driver Xenon (Rafi Tavor) whom Maria allows to shave her legs because he performed this service for his recently deceased wife.
The point is, and it comes gradually, that this is a play about family, its strength and weaknesses and how we relate to it. Its core is Maria, for whom family is all. Wearing a grey wig, clad in sensible clothes and wearing sensible shoes, Rivlin struggles with Maria. She speaks a fractured Hebrew and an easy Polish – reputedly the most difficult language to learn. Her laconic delivery of the lines elicits not a little laughter, and provides a necessary lightness, but she can’t therefore quite deliver Maria’s uncompromising core, her fierce devotion to the family she has lost and remade.
That’s why, when she tosses David out, it comes as a surprise.
Fridland is an effective David, thoroughly alienating.
If he has a core, the playwright hasn’t provided one, which makes the character too one-dimensional.
Tavor is robust and believable as Xenon.
Lily Ben-Nahshon’s atmospheric set and Oren Dar’s appropriate costumes add heft to an interesting play by a talented playwright.