"ReOrient," Series 1

The first selection from this annual two-part festival of short plays is uneven

Golden Thread's annual two-part festival of short plays from the Middle East seems obsessed this year (understandably) with war. Except for one entirely disposable play by Erik Ehn, Series 1 (on Thursdays and Saturdays) dwells on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Sahmatah, by Edward Mast, is about the destruction of a defenseless Palestinian village early in the 1948 war. An old man visits the ruins of Sahmatah with his grandson, a well-assimilated Arab named Habeeb, who wants to join the Israeli Defense Forces to improve his prospects. The whole 50-minute play consists of horror stories meant to change Habeeb's mind. No doubt most of the awful facts are historical -- and worth hearing -- but from the start there's no suspense about what the grandfather will tell Habeeb, or how Habeeb will react. The result can't really be called drama. Motti Lerner's Coming Home is an overloud production about an Israeli soldier returning from senseless shootings and a suicide bomb to his suburban Israeli home. It feels tedious for a different reason: Everyone keeps shouting. Both Lerner and director Amy Mueller have failed to build a good dramatic reason for Yoni, the soldier, or his parents to act so insane (beyond what we already know about war), so each outburst feels forced. The only consolation for a frustrated audience, I'm afraid, is the sight of a naked young man squirting ketchup all over the furniture.

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