Ethnic Theater - Jewish
47th Street Theatre, Manhattan
The title, roughly translated from the Hebrew, means “enough.” This one-woman show, written and performed by Israeli actress Iris Bahr, opened last November 2007, but returned again after a run of several followed by a hiatus. It seems that American audiences can’t get enough of Bahr and her multiple personalities.
So when is enough, enough? And is Iris (pronounced ee-rees) Bahr talking about her run, or about the Israeli-Arab conflict itself? Or about the arguments and positions which beset her on all sides? She herself, she claims, is not interested in engaging in shouting matches, but, rather, in observing and reflecting on the human experience and bringing it to the stage.
“I am full of conflicted opinions and emotions,” she says, “that encompass not only Israeli-specific issues of national religious identity, Zionism/Post-Zionism, and the fact that our very legitimacy and existence as a nation is constantly questioned and under threat, but also include issues that plague all humans; those of love, loss, family and heartbreak.”
Bahr says it even better in dramatic form, presenting a parade of characters, all of whom happen to be at an Israeli café at a critical moment. Like a chameleon, she changes from the spoiled Long Island Jewish woman, to the indifferent British TV journalist, to the thoughtful Palestinian woman professor, to the rigidly-Orthodox Jewish mother….and to a host of others (male as well as female). The characters are human, believable, with the heartbreak well distributed among them.
Over the years we have seen a number of Israeli actresses offer similar (and often better-performed) one-woman shows. But Bahr’s show literally explodes (if we may be forgiven a tasteless pun)….Her people have assembled moments before a suicide bomber blows the cafe to bits. Each monologue (caught in the midst of ordinary life) is interrupted as the bomb goes off again and again. Thus Bahr gains the chance to slip from one costume to another, from one character to another, leaving the audience each time in shock.
On the whole, Bahr is a skilled actress and impersonator, but an even better writer. She tends at times (given the particular accent for which she is striving) to rush her lines. At one point, she goes in and out of an unconvincing German accent, at another point her mumbled British speech is equally annoying.
Yet there is no doubt that Bahr is a gifted young woman, a remarkable product of a global education. Born in the United States, she was raised in Israel. Leaving the country shortly after her Israeli military service, she traveled the world. Eventually she attended Brown University (the alma mater of this reviewer), where she studied neuropsychology and religion, graduating magna cum laude. She would go on to a successful acting career in the States—making her mark in film, theater and television.
Where does Bahr go from here? One suspects that this one-woman show is a step along the way, but for her enthusiastic American audiences of the moment “Dai” is quite enough.
-- Irene Backalenick
Mar. 18, 2008