Desert Sunrise

At the heart of Misha Shulman’s flawed rumination on humanity’s 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 men’s mutual distrust gradually segues to a guarded camaraderie; the worldlier Tsahi is even teaching Ismail how to dance (after they’ve smoked some hashish), when the latter’s 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, we’re caught up in the fierce dynamic ignited by Rains and Dayan’s deftly nuanced portrayals, under Ellen Shipley’s direction. Unfortunately, the appearance of the unrestrainedly strident Layla marks a sharp downturn in the plot’s credibility. Isa’s distressingly one-note performance is but one aspect of the problem. More basic is the script itself, since there’s nothing in Ismail’s 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 Shulman’s use of a chorus to give the action an Aeschylean framework; unlike the production’s 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


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