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LA Theater Review


Though flawed, this work by playwright Karen Hartman commands the viewer’s involvement as it illuminates the disorganization and the everyday, human aspect of the Israeli pullout from Gaza in 2005. The first act, with its splendid characterizations and engaging dramatic quality, through which many sides of the Mideast conflict are given a voice, is somewhat let down by the second act, in which the behavior is inconsistent with the way the characters were established.

Gittel (Laura Flanagan), an Orthodox woman, is packing to move from her home in Gaza under an evacuation order enforced by Israeli soldiers who face violent resistance from many of the other Jewish settlers. Resigned to the pullout, she alternately cajoles, teases, and orders her teenage son, David (Wyatt Fenner), a religious zealot constantly quoting scripture and enraged by the forced evacuation, to get ready for the move.
Adding to the mix are the Palestinian woman (Anna Khaja) who worked for Gittel and now lays claim to Gittel’s house, an Israeli army commander (Richard Knolla) attempting to be sensitive while removing the settlers, and a young Ethiopian woman (Ayana Hampton) serving in the military and dedicated to fighting for Israel. When these diverse characters converge, the action races headlong to an explosive conclusion that feels tragically inevitable.

Flanagan holds the piece together, brilliantly projecting strength, wit, anger, and anguish with an emotional fluidity that springs spontaneously from seemingly bottomless depths. Khaja also delivers a strong, forceful performance through dialogue laced with outbursts about her grievances against the settlers. Although it is difficult to make his character palatable, Fenner does a credible job. He is hampered because Hartman and director Marya Mazor have not identified the humanity underneath the fanatic, so his performance stays on one note. Knolla is sincere but comes across as totally American, with nothing in his cadence to suggest that his character is Israeli. Hampton has touching moments but needs the assurance onstage that more experience would provide. A reworking of the second act might help this play realize its potential.

Presented by and at the Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood.
July 31–Aug. 16. Variable schedule.
(323) 882-6912.


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