note: entire contents copyleft 2006 by Will Stackman
Reviewed by Will Stackman
British playwright David Hare went to Israel and the Palestinian territories in 1997 to gather material about the continuing crisis. When he returned, he wrote and performed a solo piece about the experience, although he'd not appeared onstage since his teens. Almost a decade later, the text remains dismally relevant. It's being interpreted for the Berkshire Festival by one of New England's finest actors, Norton winner Jonathan Epstein, who brought the show for one weekend to Laurie Theater at Brandeis' Spingold Theatre Center. Epstein is currently on the adjunct faculty there. His performances continue at the BTF in Stckbridge through October 21.
Hare's journey brought him into contact with politicians on both sides, with Jewish settlers and Palestinian radicals, meetings which he recreates by paraphrasing and quoting these real people. Over all there's a sense of hopelessness coupled with irrational determination on both sides. Both are attached to the land of their fathers, however unsupportable that belief becomes. The position of the two sides has if anything hardened since Hare's visit, making his metaphor of the Via Dolorosa even more apt today, as the situation slides downhill.
Epstein plays the role with an appropriate but neutral British accent, achieving a real sense of Everyman. Hare's background first as Literary Manager for the Royal Court, and a longer stint as Associate Director of the National, where many of his plays premiered, fits the actor like a glove. The actor's performance suggests that the current road of Britain and the US in the Middle East is headed down the same path as the conflict in Israel, with no perceivable solution, merely escalating violence and potential mutual self-destruction.
Hare's further thoughts on the subject will be on display at the BCA next month, when the Zeitgeist Theatre Co. tackles his controversial "Stuff Happens" in which the Bush Administration et al and Tony Blair's government explain their approach to the current conflict, to no one's credit. The title of the piece comes from Rumsfeld's notorious excuse for the failure of the Iraq initiative and the so-called coalition.