At the heart of Misha Shulmans flawed rumination on humanitys struggle to achieve peace is a well-orchestrated pas de deux by performers Dominic Rains and Oren Dayan. His drama revolves around an encounter between a Palestinian shepherd named Ismail (Rains) and Tsahi (Dayan), an armed Israeli soldier lost in the desert. The mens mutual distrust gradually segues to a guarded camaraderie; the worldlier Tsahi is even teaching Ismail how to dance (after theyve smoked some hashish), when the latters girlfriend, Layla (Miriam Isa), arrives. All but foaming at the mouth, Layla holds Tsahi at close gunpoint while angrily accusing Ismail of becoming a collaborator. Up to this point, were caught up in the fierce dynamic ignited by Rains and Dayans deftly nuanced portrayals, under Ellen Shipleys direction. Unfortunately, the appearance of the unrestrainedly strident Layla marks a sharp downturn in the plots credibility. Isas distressingly one-note performance is but one aspect of the problem. More basic is the script itself, since theres nothing in Ismails earlier worshipful description of his beloved (whom he has known all his life) that offers the slightest hint of her raging feminism and rabid nationalism. Also open to question is Shulmans use of a chorus to give the action an Aeschylean framework; unlike the productions music, sound (Andrew Monheim) and dance (choreography and belly dancing by Jenna), this chorus is less a vivid enhancement than it is a heavy-handed pretension.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: July 11. Continues through Aug. 23, 2008