Retzach, a CurtainUp review CurtainUp

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A CurtainUp Review

Look how much he looks like all of you. What you want--he wanted too --- the father, of a teen-aged boy whose murder begins a cycle of vengeance that transforms victim into victimizer

Tony Naumovski in Retzach
Tony Naumovski
(Photo: Michael Priest)
Hanoch Levin (1943-1999), was both renowned and denounced by his fellow Israelis for his outspoken dramas (when his denunciation of the Golda Meir administration, The Queen of the Bathtub, opened in Tel Aviv, nightly demonstrations led to a premature closing). Though American theater goers have had little exposure to his work, they've recently been presented with two permutations of his 1997 play depicting an unnamed country in which murder and the acts of vengeance that follow are part of a hopelessly unbroken cycle: In 2005, it had a two week run at P.S. 122 under it's original title, Murder. Now, under the auspices of different producers, Crooked Timber productions and Voice Theatre, and renamed Retzach (Hebrew for an unwarranted murder) it has settled in at 59E59's Theater C through March 12th.

As the unnamed warring factions shifting from victim to victimizer and back in Retzach are obviously Arabs and Israelis, it's clear that both these stagings were prompted by the play's dispiriting parallels to our own misguided and mismanaged war in Iraq. A murder is committed in each of the three acts comprising the short, intermissionless drama. It begins with the interrogation, killing of a teenaged boy by three inexperienced, trigger happy soldiers in generic uniforms who are not above torture. Three years later, the murdered boy's inconsolably bitter father kills a hapless bride and groom. Fast forward another five years when one of two down on their luck workers is mistaken as the killer of the murdered bride by her sister turned prostitute, which leads to his being beaten to death.

As directed by Shauna Kanter and translated by Liat Glick & Tzahi Moskovitz, this production pays tribute to the poetry that enriched the late playwright's work and his beginnings as a cabaret artist. Using the aisles as well as the stage, and adding puppets to the sizeable cast, Kanter has turned the somber burial of the teenaged boy into a riveting dance-theater scene, made even more stunning by Graham Kindred's lighting.

Despite this impressive staging, the poetry rich translation and the commitment of the actors -- especially Tony Naumovski as the anguished father and the cracked worker in the final sequence, and Gil Getz as the flushed soldier in the beginning -- like Brian Dyksta's Clean Alternatives, in the adjoining theater (Review), this play is not some stunning wake-up call to the unaware-- but will be seen by the anti-war choir to whom the message that no unwarranted act of violence serves any purpose except to lead to another violent act and yet another.

Playwright: Hanoch Levin,
Directed by Shauna Kanter
Translation by Liat Glick & Tzahi Moskovitz
Cast: Gili Getz, Christel Halliburton, Sarah Imes, Amy Kovalchick, Simon MacLean, Joseph Mancuso, Stephen Medwid, Tony Naumovski, Chris Paolucci, Raj Pannu, Andrew Russell, Emily Shapiro, Hadar Shemesh, Jelena Stupljanin, Arley Tapirian, Morteza Tavakoli.
Set Design: Casey Smith
Costume Design: Amelia Dombrowski
Lighting Design: Graham Kindred
Composer/Sound Designer: Joseph T. LaBarbera
Puppets: Serra Hirsch.
Running time: 65 minutes without an intermission
Crooked Timber Productions at 59E59, Theater B, 59 East 59th Street, 212-279-4200
From 2/09/06 to 3/12/06; opens 2/16/06.
Wednesdays to Fridays at 8:15pm, Saturdays at 2:15pm & 8:15pm and Sundays at 3:15pm & 7:15pm.
Tickets are $35/ $15 student and senior rush.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on February 15th press performance
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