Director Shauna Kanter has given the late Hanoch Levin's last play, Retzach, a powerful and taut production that shocks by virtue of its simplicity and naked emotions. This controversial Israeli author has written a play condemning both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without naming names or placing blame. The play's three dramatic scenes are framed by songs and dances in the style of Brecht's alienation effect, and the entire play resembles an update of Mother Courage and Her Children as it applies to the Middle East.
The new translation by Liat Glick, Kanter, and Tzahi Moskovitz mercilessly drives home its points in sparse, pointed language and scenes of intense confrontation. "Retzach" means "murder" in Hebrew, and the play demonstrates the escalating cycle of violence. A father finds three soldiers standing over the dead body of his son, and a never-ending cycle of revenge begins. Among the play's devastatingly ironic lines is a soldier's remark: "When peace comes, we'll visit.... Finally, we'll be friends." The announcement that "the time for quiet is over" is used to declare both peace and war. The play's final image of children playing is shattering.
The 15 excellent cast members play multiple nameless roles, suggesting the anonymity of war and prejudice. Among the standouts are Tony Naumovski as the father of the dead boy, Jelena Stupljanin as a bride begging for her life, Raj Pannu as a worker attacked by the crowd, and Andrew Russell as a soldier just doing his job.
Casey Smith's minimalist set is perfect for this fluid play, and Graham Kindred's lighting always helps rivet attention. John La Barbera's original music marks him as a contemporary Kurt Weill. Serra Hirsch is responsible for the realistic puppets of children used in the sequence in which the parents try to shield them from attack.
Presented by Crooked Timber Productions in association with Voice Theatre
at 59E59 Theaters, 59 E. 59th St., NYC.
Feb. 16-March 12. Wed.-Sat., 8:15 p.m.; Sat., 2:15 p.m.; Sun., 3:15 and 7:15 p.m.
(212) 279-4200 or www.ticketcentral.com.