O Jerusalem

Best known for his mild metatheatrics and wistful meditations on the emotional burden of WASP privilege, A.R. Gurney might seem an incongruous choice to dramatize 9/11 and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Not to worry. Gurney’s 2003 romantic fantasy carries nary a trace of political finger- pointing or even cogent analysis. When oil executive – and inveterate lady’s man — Hartwell Clark (Don Schlossman) takes a diplomatic post in Israel as the new, Bush “Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs,” he loses no time in arranging a liaison with old college flame Amira (Lauren Campedelli), a Palestinian Christian. Ignoring the reservations of lifelong friend (and ex-lover) Sally (Gretchen Koerner), Clark meets Amira only to find her fronting an offer from Hamas: Push their latest peace proposal in exchange for the plans to al-Qaeda’s upcoming strike on New York. Clark reluctantly agrees but is too late to avert 9/11 or save his job and marriage, when word of his Amira meetings reach home. Director Tiger Reel and a capable ensemble give the improbable proceedings a spirited production. But their efforts are continually undermined by Gurney’s cloying conceit that the performance is actually a reconstruction of a lost 2003 text being staged in an unspecified future. The device’s perspective allows the play’s dubiously redemptive coda — Clark’s romantic reconciliation with Sally and his transformation into a messiah of world peace — but at a cost of trivializing the convulsive horrors of the more recent past. Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Dec. 7. (800) 838-3006.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: Nov. 14. Continues through Dec. 7, 2008


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