Upcoming New York play has local connection


Broadway, at the time this column is being written, is virtually dark with 28 theaters closed due to the stagehand’s strike. Simultaneously Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are under way for the first time in seven years. Both these subjects are relevant to Masked, a play Off-Broadway which is not affected by the strike and is running nightly at the DR 2 Theatre, 103 E. 15th Street. Masked is a powerful, provocative play about conflict in the lives of three Palestinian brothers. Written seventeen years ago by Israeli playwright Ilan Hatsor, it is an explosive theater piece which depicts the tragedy of one family torn between obligations, kinship and principles.

The play is set in a Palestinian village on the West Bank in 1990, but this story could easily have taken place in any number of towns or cities over the last 20 years, from Belfast to Johannesburg to Sarajevo, or even present day Baghdad — anywhere a military conflict has put brother at the throat of brother. As the play opens the first Intifada was getting started and Israeli troops were trying to halt the uprising by rooting out guerillas, breaking up demonstrations, often firing into crowds and bulldozing the homes of suspected Palestinian fighters. At one of these banned rallies the seven-year-old brother of the play’s three characters was shot and killed by an Israeli soldier. The three brothers — a guerilla who has fled to the mountains, a dishwasher who works in Tel Aviv and is suspected of being a spy for the Israelis and the youngest, a butcher in the village — have an explosive hour together each expressing an intensely different personal response to the conflict.

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“I chose to tell this story from the point of view of three Palestinian brothers, utilizing the power of theater to introduce the Israeli audience to its enemy. It was a perspective different to the one to which they were accustomed; Palestinians not as faceless monsters, but as human beings forced to deal with unbearable dilemmas and conflicts,” explains playwright Hatsor in his author’s note.

Former St. Louisan, Sharon Burde who has long been involved in conflict resolution and participates in a dialogue series in conjunction with Masked, urged me to tell you about the play and its director Ami Dyan. During the 1970s Dyan’s parents, Jean and Amatzia Dyan lived in St. Louis with their children, as Amatzia served then as the Jewish Community Center’s shaliah, the official representative of Israel. Today Ami Dyan is an outstanding award-winning director as well as a playwright and performer. His direction of Masked, now running for several months, has received high praise from critics.

Following most performances there is a dialogue session called “Urgent Conversations” which explores with the audience issues raised by this powerful work.

When the curtain falls, the conversation begins and the pressing themes of the play are given a forum in which all viewpoints can be explored. The series features community leaders, experts in conflict resolution like Burde, influential writers, international reporters, prominent activists and members of the play’s creative team. Among the participants are actress Tova Feldshuh: Ruth Dayan, longtime peace activist and the first wife of Moshe Dayan; and most recently Olympia Dukakis who said “Masked is a deeply moving play showing us the human face of the contradictions inherent in the Near-Eastern conflict”. According to Burde, “Masked is a must-see for anyone interested the long-term viability of Israeli, Palestine and the Middle East, indeed the world.”

If you have plans to be in the Big Apple and would like to see Masked, tickets are available at $35 to $55 through www.telecharge.com or by phone at 212-239-6200. Perhaps you would even like to see it imported to St. Louis where it would be wonderful, for example, at the New Jewish Theatre. It is currently playing at the DR2 Theatre at 103 E. 15th Street at Union Square East. Nearby is former St. Louisan Danny Meyer’s very famous Union Square Cafe, so in one afternoon for lunch and matinee or an evening of dinner and theatre you could have a St. Louis old home week.