Father, Unknown–Nisim Aloni’s “The American Princess” at the Khan

Haim Watzman

    <em>Arie Tcherner and Udi Rothschild</em>
Arie Tcherner and Udi Rotschild
An astounding metamorphosis lies at the center of Nisim Aloni’s play The American Princess—now on stage in a truly amazing production at the Khan Theater in South Jerusalem. A son turns his father into a character in a film, receives him back as an actor who plays his father, and then kills—but is it the actor or the real father? Or is there a real father? Does the son know enough to tell the difference?

The play takes off from ancient myths—Oedipus, Persephone, and other primal stories of parents, children, and death—but them leaves them far behind. Except for his finely-tuned Hebrew language, Aloni (one of Israel’s leading playwrights and translators of plays, who died in 1998) removes his story entirely from the Israeli context that hangs so heavily over so many of this country’s original works of drama. The action takes place in an unnamed South American country and the two main characters are the deposed king of a Central European principality and his wayward 20-something son. The Khan’s Arie Tcherner and Udi Rotschild offer flawless performances in this sonata for two actors, under the fine direction of Udi Ben Moshe.

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Rape Those Women! Slaughter Those Babies!–Why You Can’t Just Stage “Henry V” For The Hell Of It

Haim Watzman

Shannon Kisch, the director of Shakespeare Jerusalem’s initially promising but ultimately amorphous production of Henry V, at least has my daughter Mizmor on her side. At nearly midnight last night, as we walked home from The Lab (Jerusalem’s newest and finest stage), Mizmor said, “It’s nice for a change to see someone just do a Shakespeare play the way it’s written.”

Which is what Kisch, in her program notes, says she wanted to do. Recalling a conversation about the problems of staging this historical drama, she writes: “The sentence I remember most clearly, and that which made the most sense to me, was this: ‘Why don’t you just tell the story?’”

I love my daughter and respect her opinions, and I sincerely admire Shakespeare Jerusalem’s ambition to stage the Bard’s works for Israeli audiences, but this production is a textbook demonstration of exactly why you can’t just “just tell the story.”

Read moreRape Those Women! Slaughter Those Babies!–Why You Can’t Just Stage “Henry V” For The Hell Of It

Missing the Point: Mohammed Kacimi’s “Holy Land” at the Khan

Haim Watzman

“On both sides of a war, unity is reflexive, not intentional or premeditated. To disobey is to breach that elemental accord, to claim a moral separateness (or moral superiority), to challenge one’s fellows, perhaps even to intensify the dangers they face,” Michael Walzer writes in his seminal Just and Unjust Wars. Walzer refers in this passage to the moral dilemma faced by the enlisted man, but the same dilemma is not foreign to civilians. Wanting to be part of our society and in discourse with it is not only elemental but also commendable. Being moral alone on a desert island is no great accomplishment. We admire those who seek and succeed in living an ethical life in human company.

The new production of the Algerian-born French playwright Mohammed Kacimi’s Holy Land (Terre Sainte) at South Jerusalem’s Khan Theater brings us face to face with this dilemma. Unfortunately, while director Nola Chilton’s production is powerful and unflagging, and the five actors passionate, the play itself disappoints. In addressing the dilemma of war in art, it is facile to do no more than to say that war is hell. A writer taking up the subject needs to delve into the complex and difficult questions that war raises.

Read moreMissing the Point: Mohammed Kacimi’s “Holy Land” at the Khan