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A shocking anti-war play whose brilliance isn't evoked by the cast

Wednesday, Aug 4 2004
First, Israeli soldiers stab a Palestinian boy. Then the father comes in and wails over his son's corpse. He raves, finds a gun, and goes on to kill a young Israeli bride and groom. And so on. Hanoch Levin's anti-war play about death and revenge in Israel and the Occupied Territories is not just harsh and shocking; it's also brilliant in ways the cast in this Second Wind local premiere simply can't evoke. Levin has a mordant, singing bitterness that breaks into rhyme or strange flights of exaggeration, and the actors can't keep up with him. Bruce Moody in particular overplays the Arab father, howling like a wildcat and forcing every word, but not once even trying to seem Palestinian. There's also no sense of racial tension or enmity between the father and the Israeli soldiers. You get the idea that America is too remote from Israel for the actors (or their director, Ian Walker) to really understand the problem. Linking the story to current events with recent BBC footage on a small TV screen or hoping audiences might think of Murder as a fable of the Iraqi occupation lets no one off the hook. (Ungrounded plays can't be universal.) Only Neal Bishop, as the Israeli groom's grieving father, does compelling work. In the final scene his character suffers a case of mistaken identity, and through Bishop's performance you catch a glimpse of the playwright's trenchant, devastating irony.


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