The Playgoer: Joshua Sobol's "iWitness" in LA

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Joshua Sobol's "iWitness" in LA

Joshua Sobol is one of Israel's major contemporary playwrights and an outspoken opponent of the Likud policies of occupation. His WWII play "iWitness" was extremely controversial in its use of Nazi-era Austria as a setting for a parable about the very domestic and immediate problem of forced military conscription.

Former CSC head Barry Edelstein's new production/adaptation has just opened at the Taper in LA, and here's a rave review by Variety critic (and blogger) Steven Oxman.

So even in Israel--where terrorism is a daily reality, where "sensitivity" on all things Jewish would seem to reign supreme--the political theatre is more daring than in NYC.


Anonymous said...

Yes, obviously. Anyone who knows anything about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict knows that there is far more vigorous debate within Israel than within the United States. Duh. (Read the op-ed page of Ha'Aretz -- there's an English-language on-line version:

The parochialism of American theater people -- and Americans in general -- is stunning. Indeed, just such ignorance is part of why Nicola blundered so terribly. I am beginning to think that parochialism is being replicated on this blog. It's too bad this blog remains interested only in a play about a woman murdered by bulldozer and not about the home demolitions and murderous occupation more generally. The free-expression issues is important, don't get me wrong, but in six weeks of hammering NYTW, the discussion of this website has itself avoided the issues NYTW thought they had to "contextualize". How come? (And don't say it's because you don't want to take a position -- what Nicola stupidly said! -- or that you don't know enough. Start learning! Provide links! You want political theater -- but you don't want to deal with politics. )

Anyway, one of Sobol's plays -- using the ancient Roman occupation of the Israelites as an allegory for the Israeli occupation of Palestinians -- caused near riots when it was produced in Haifa about 15 years ago, and led to the forced resignation of much of the staff of the theater that presented it. So even the relatively far more open space for discussion in Israel runs into some vehement responses sometimes.

Playgoer said...

"in six weeks of hammering NYTW, the discussion of this website has itself avoided the issues NYTW thought they had to "contextualize". How come?"

Gee I never expected to have to defend myself for not writing LESS about theatre and MORE about politics...

Not sure what to say. I guess I'd start by urging anyone really wanting to learn about the Middle East to look elsewhere than a this theatre blog. I cannot take on the responsibility of teaching readers on that subject--especially since it's one I'm not expert in.

I try to research what I can and post what seems informative. I certainly haven't been hiding my views (against Likud, for more open debate). To devote more of my limited time to becoming a MidEast expert is just not feasible for me.

Again, this is a theatre blog. There are plenty of other blogs (and even those things called newspapers and journals) far better equipped than this site.

Excuse me for not doing the work of providing a comprehensive blogroll or bibliography here of such "for further reading." But everyone, please feel free to post here your recommendations.

Playgoer said...

Only fair to point out the LA reviews for "iWitness" were not ALL such raves, and I hear there's not consensus there on how provocative the play really is, to Americans, at least.

McNulty's take in the LA Times, for instance, is more mixed:,0,2828303.story