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To paraphrase Doug Goldstein, a peace activist in Larry Loebell’s House Divided: “If everyone on their side would just agree that all of us were absolutely right, and everyone on our side would agree that all of us were absolutely wrong, we might begin to get somewhere.” Nice turn of phrase, but it doesn’t really offer much of an insight on the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict. That’s often the problem when politics are central to a play— particularly, as in this case, when the playwright aims to make all sides, if not sympathetic, at least understandable.
Notwithstanding my reservations about political agit-drama, there is much to applaud in this current world premiere from InterAct Theatre Company. Seth Rozin has gathered a superb cast for this examination of three generations of an American Jewish family polarized by faith and politics in both the U.S. and Israel. When these talented actors— David Howey, Paul Meshejian, Dan Hodge, Davy Raphaely, Noah Herman and Robert I. DaPonte— clash as members of a divided family, their struggle and pain are palpable. But when Loebell uses them as representatives of particular political points of view, the play becomes preachy and predictable, and the characters become stereotypes.
Rozin uses his six players to weave together scenes from both the past and present, exploring politics, family dynamics and the seemingly insoluble problem of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Often one scene will still be playing as the actors of another scene appear on stage. Symbolic? Yes. Confusing? At times. Annoying? Somewhat.
Dirk Durossett’s effective set design puts us in Philadelphia and Israel at the same time in a house that’s missing chunks of its walls. Peter Whinnery’s imaginative lighting design supports the play’s overlapping scenes and time jumps. Rozin’s staging deftly enhances the fluidity of the performances.
House Divided brings into focus many of the complex issues of this seemingly unending Pandora’s box of religious intolerance and political strife. It was an astute choice, given InterAct’s mission: “Changing the world, one play at a time.” While I wished that the performance had been less of a social studies class, its ending does offer some hope that the conflict may one day be resolved - “If only we could accept each other as brothers, how different our world would be!”
To read another review by Jim Rutter, click here.
To read another review by Steve Cohen, click here.
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