Religion or politics should never be discussed in polite circles, so they say, but Stephanie Liss' world-premiere play does both, focusing on the Israeli-Palestine conflict as seen through the eyes of three interconnected women. Henrietta Szold (Salome Jens), who proposed a binational state in Palestine and was a co-founder of Hadassah, the Woman's Zionist Organization of America, provides historical perspective in Act 1. In the second act, two mothers, one Jewish (Lisa Richards) and the other a Jihadist (Abbe Rowlins), share a loss. Separated by just a fence, their ideologies stretch the distance between them into an insurmountable length. Though Liss' script needs a good trimming, especially in Act 1, she fleshes out a complicated political situation. Meanwhile, director L. Flint Esquerra's cast takes what could be a dry textbook and gives it a throbbing heart. Jens has the difficult job of sustaining attention while never leaving her chair, and though she seemed at first to be reading lines from the book sitting on her lap, she's talented enough to eventually sweep the audience up. But the real power of the script comes from the story of the two mothers, as Richards and Rowlins both find the cores of their characters. Rowlins sheds light on the surprisingly convincing motivation of a devout Jihadist, and while Liss' script attempts to focus more on a discussion of the maternal instinct, it's far more interesting to consider that religious zealotry trumps all inherent tendencies. The MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Dec. 18; (800) 838-3006.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: Nov. 18. Continues through Jan. 22, 2011