New York and Connecticut theater reviews and news

Ethnic Theater - Jewish

"Bath Party"
HERE Arts Center, Manhattan

An Israeli actress has just stormed New York. Well, ”storm” is too strong a word, perhaps. And the make-shift stage, located down a flight of rickety stairs, is hardly Broadway. But Meital Dohan is here in New York, part of the off-off-Broadway scene, and doing her thing. Her current show “Bath Party” is enjoying its “world premiere” at the HERE Arts Center in downtown Manhattan.

Furthermore, Dohan is not a STAR, as her promotional material proclaims, though she has done film, theater and TV work in Israel. But Meital Dohan, it must be acknowledged, is a knock-out—a blonde, sexy import from Israel who knows how to wiggle her hips. What words best describe Dohan, beyond her obvious physical attributes? “Chutzpah” comes to mind, as do “attitude,” “aggressiveness,” “self-absorption.” She certainly takes command of the stage and is a presence.

So much for Dohan. But what of the show itself? With the help of two other actors—P.J. Mehaffey and Susan Hyon—it tells the immigrant story, of what immigrants encounter on coming to America. Or at least that is what Dohan (with the help of co-writer/director Karen Shefler) attempts to do. Much of the show’s action takes place in a bathtub, with Dohan’s shapely limbs draped provocatively over the tub’s rim. The implication is that she is swamped by the American culture, unable to cope.

Dohan and company do have some good ideas and clever gimmicks, but the piece generally is so formless and so confusing in substance, that it makes no real impact on the audience. More often than not, it has a decidedly amateurish flavor. The plight of new immigrants in America is surely a potentially powerful theme, but it gets short shrift here.

The best of “Bath Party” is due to the use of videos which interact cleverly with live performers on stage. Initially, we meet Dohan’s parents, as she talks with them on the cell phones, she on stage, each of them on the screen. And her audition at Tisch School of the Arts is handled the same way, with the on-screen professor berating Dohan (on stage) for her Israeli accent. Moreover, these segments of Dohan’s own life from Israeli years to America give promise of a good story. But it never goes anywhere effectively, in fact sinks into foolishness--just as Dohan and her cronies sink into the bathtub, immersed in Kentucky Fried Chicken.

-- Irene Backalenick
Sept. 2, 2005

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