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Sixteen Wounded

Presented by Jujamcyn Theaters, Producers Four, and Robert G. Bartner in association with Debra Black, Lisa Vioni, and Michael Watt, casting by Jay Binder/Jack Bowdan, at the Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 W. 48 St., NYC. Opened April 15, closing April 25.

A young playwright named Eliam Kraiem has dished up an old plot: an outlaw revolutionary falls in love and wants to give up his violent, clandestine life, but his old comrades won't let him. Young Mahmoud, a Palestinian terrorist hiding out in Holland, falls into "Sixteen Wounded" when anti-immigrant skinheads throw him through the plate glass window of a bakery—an effective entrance, to say the least (special effects by Gregory Meeh). Hans, the proprietor, binds up his wounds and gives him a job, although Mahmoud is a seething anti-Semite and Hans—guess what?—is a Jew and a Holocaust survivor. Predictably, Mahmoud falls in love with a nice Dutch girl (at least she isn't Hans' daughter) and, equally predictably, Mahmoud's brother appears in the second act to remind Mahmoud of his duty to the cause.

Within this contrived, sentimental, and melodramatic plot, however, the playwright has found some significant and poignant reality. Mahmoud's hatred comes believably from dispossession, exile, and suffering, but the play does not justify terrorism; Mahmoud himself is the victim of his dark dedication. Omar Metwally, who plays him, catches his nervous energy, his boyish charm, his genuine delight at becoming a father; it is easy to root for him to opt out of the struggle and settle down with his new family. Hans the baker, Mahmoud's benefactor, is never too sweet, never cute, either in the writing or in Judd Hirsch's fine performance; likewise Mahmoud's girlfriend, played by Martha Plimpton.

Garry Hynes' direction is highly professional, as are Francis O'Connor's set, James F. Ingalls' lighting, and John Gromada's music and sound. But the production is sometimes a little too nice. An unlikely subplot is made even more unlikely by the stunning beauty and gracious demeanor of that excellent actress Jan Maxwell as a veteran prostitute. And Metwally's Mahmoud lacks that final depth of hatred that the character should have. Still, flaws and all, "Sixteen Wounded" held—and repaid—my attention.

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