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SO, AN ISRAELI AND A PALESTINIAN WALK INTO AN APARTMENT…

 

picture - West Bank UKTheater Review

by Kestryl Lowrey

published December 7, 2007

 

West Bank, UK

now playing Off Broadway at La Mama, E.T.C. First Floor Theater

through December 16

 

There are some phrases that should never share the same sentence, let alone the same production idea.  “Israel-Palestine conflict” and “musical comedy” represents one such pairing.  It’s a pity that no one let Oren Safdie, writer and director of West Bank, UK, in on this bit of wisdom. 

 

In this apartment-level attempted allegory of Middle Eastern tensions, Assaf the Israeli Jew (Jeremy Cohen) returns to his apartment in the West Bank of London after separating from his German girlfriend, only to find that his flat is now inhabited by Aziz the Palestinian refugee (Mike Mosallam).  Their American landlady tries to preserve the peace by proposing the two men share the place.  Hilarity ensues… or, at least, we can assume that that was what the playwright/director intended. 

 

After this premise is established, the play proceeds through a series of vaguely related scenes, only some of which follow the discernable plot.  Anthony Patellis and Michelle Solomon rush around portraying all of the caricatures that complicate Assaf and Aziz’s (alternately) tense/affectionate relationship.  It should be noted that some of the most entertaining moments of the show are a credit to Solomon and Patellis, both of whom demonstrate considerable range and timing. 

 

Muddy allegories and strained humor aside, the show does have its redeeming moments.  It’s hard not to chuckle when Assaf’s Orthodox girlfriend sings, “Why can’t a girl be naughty and love G-d?”  Then again, it’s difficult not to cringe when the cast breaks out in a chorus of “We like the action hot, hot, hot, when people get shot, shot, shot!”… complete with pelvic thrusts.  Composer and lyricist Ronnie Cohen has created some catchy melodies for the production, but unfortunately (as is too often the case with musicals), the rest of the piece seems to be more about moving from one zany song to the next than telling a story.    

 

Clearly, West Bank, UK, is attempting to address and ease Arab-Israeli tensions with laughter and song.  Beyond this, though, it’s difficult to tell what is achieved by creating an odd couple of Israel and Palestine.  The premise has potential, but at this point, the piece could benefit from more focus and development, not to mention a more clearly conceptualized plot. 

 

kestryl.lowrey @ stageandcinema.com

 

 
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