The Playgoer: Arabs & Israelis back on the NY Stage

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Arabs & Israelis back on the NY Stage

A two-decade old Israeli play "Masked" is receiving a belated New York premiere next week. It deals directly and not unsympathetically with the intifada, albeit not explicitly the present-day one. And, like "Rachel Corrie," it too is being presented by a commercial producer.

Penned in 1990 by a Jewish Israeli, Ilan Hatsor, then a student-playwright, "Masked" is a traditional Greek tragedy, transpiring over several hours in a West Bank butcher shop. Like the controversial New York production of "My Name is Rachel Corrie," it unfolds amid a violent intifada, and its sympathies lie with the Palestinian Arabs it depicts. Yet Mr. Hatsor's play has not sparked the kind of heated debate that preceded the local premiere of "My Name is Rachel Corrie."...

The run-up to "Masked" has been much quieter. After organizing a series of staged readings last fall, director Ami Dayan secured an open-ended [read: commercial] "Masked" run at DR2, an off-Broadway performance space of veteran theater producer Daryl Roth.
Read all about it in today's Sun--itself no friend of Israeli-unfriendly thought.

I like the logic of director Dyan's (and yes, he's related to that Dyan) argument for doing the play at this particular moment:
Mr. Dayan, an Israeli-American, said he was motivated to import "Masked" stateside by Hamas's surprise victory against its rival Fatah in the January 2006 Palestinian legislative elections [s]eeing the play as emblematic of that factional struggle weakening bonds in families and among peoples.
Those January 2006 Hamas elections? Exactly the same event cited by New York Theatre Workshop as a reason not to do "Rachel Corrie." Me, I'm on the side of theatre being relevant.

Speaking of NYTW, their long awaited foray into Arab American drama on the mainstage starts tonight with Betty Shamieh's The Black Eyed.

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