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The Fist

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"The Fist," by Israeli playwright Misha Shulman, is a highly charged and searing political drama about one family nearly tearing itself apart over their son's decision to protest Israeli treatment of the Palestinians. He does so by refusing to report for reserve duty on the West Bank.

Shauli, the central character, is performed by the playwright with passionate intensity. He is waiting with his wife, Yael (Anna Tsiriotakis), outside the home of his parents, who have yet to return from Shabbat services, when two military policemen try to arrest him. But Shauli, with his wife and parents, negotiates for two hours. Thus, the stage is set for a Sabbath meal with patriotic parent-founders of Israel, and a knock-down dialectical battle that will result in mutually assured aggravation.

Shauli's mother, Chaya (Judith Jablonka), comes home first and asks why Shauli didn't come to the dedication of the tombstone of his Uncle Shlomo, the family's war hero, killed in a suicide bombing.

When the father, Eli (Bob Adrian), comes home, upset at Shauli's no-show at the cemetery, Shauli tries to respond but Eli refuses to listen -- until Shauli bangs his kiddush cup down on the table, screaming at him that he wants to tell him something. Shauli begins a story he has never told his family before, about patrolling an Arab village: "My soldiers were scared....Suddenly I saw someone move in the dark alleyway to our right. 'Everyone down!' I yelled, and fired." He discovers a little girl, no older than 10, blood pouring out of her head. A moment later the girl dies in his arms. Suddenly the girl's mother steps out of a doorway. "She just looked at me," Shauli continues, "my eyes red with tears, noticed my yarmulke, and said, 'Go, go, cry to your God who promised you this land.' "

This is but the first-act ending of this nightmare, wonderfully acted, and directed with sharp intelligence by Mike Rutenberg.

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