According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

dai (enough)

Before they were statistics, the victims of suicide bombings were people, and the power of Iris Bahr's multi-faceted performances in her solo show, dai (enough) is her ability to resurrect them, just moments before the explosion, in such a way that we can remember them as humans, first and foremost, and political statements later. Bahr's comic approach doesn't always work -- many of the characters still seem like figurative points -- but when it does, her work is explosive.

Reviewed by Aaron Riccio

A British newscaster walks through a sea of empty chairs and empty tables, reporting to her unseen camera crew on the wide variety of characters to be found here, a bustling cafe in Jerusalem. She's here to explore the "Israeli plight," and before long, she's found an interesting interview subject. A brief change of clothing, and Iris Bahr is now an American actress doing research for a part she's totally thrilled to be playing, a Jewish girl so beautiful that a suicide bomber falls for her. ("Let's just say there's a sex scene, but no sequel," she blithely says.) But before her career can blow up (and there's a lot of this violent punning), the cafe is blown up by a less-than-Hollywood bomber, the lights fade, screams rise, and Iris Bahr rewinds to do it all over again, this time as an Israeli man.

Dai (enough) is a cleverly transposed solo show that views the last few minutes of ten different characters. The rigid structure alone is a reflection of the lock-step tension in Israel, but the far more chilling effect is that the explosions grow expected, and repetitive. These lives are momentary breaks from a limbo of destruction, and for all the comedy that Bahr lends them, there's always something inescapably bleak over their shoulder. Even the ghostly set, littered with scraps of clothing and haunted by a giant black arch, enforces this terror. Bahr can claim all she likes that she didn't want to make a political play, but the staging (and choice of character; there's only one Palestinian) cries otherwise.

At the same time, these aren't polemic characters, and with the exception of a very busy and opinionated Jewish mother ("How many people must die for these [Arab] monsters?"), they're not really polarizing, either. Instead, Mrs. Bahr manages to capture the nuance of different lifestyles in Jerusalem, from the Russian prostitute who "don't give shit" about the problems to the ecstasy dealer out to throw a "party for peace." She embodies the snooty socialite, visiting her homeland with designer sunglasses and feeling like "the Queen of England," just as easily as she becomes a gay German furniture dealer, blindly following the love of his life. (There's some good writing here, too; the German, depressed, begins to make discomfiting furniture that expresses his angst -- like a table with an edge so sharp, it'll slit your wrists if you lean on it.)

But what the show lacks are sympathetic characters. It isn't until the end of the play that we meet our entry point, an orphaned American girl who has volunteered to serve in the Israeli army. Neither Jewish nor American, she is still alone, trying desperately to find herself, and not just the "Americocky" person they label her as. She speaks of making human connections, of how it must be nice to feel suffocated by someone who loves you, and her nervous yearnings earn her the tragic ending that eludes so many of these other briefly glimpsed people.

Dai (enough) is a strong production that makes a nice transition from the Culture Project to the 47th Street Theatre, and although it cheats the narrative to make a point (these "interviews" can't all be taking place at the same time), that end justifies the means. It's also thoroughly grounded by Bahr's plot, which neatly frames a series of parallels within the full-circle arc of the play, all while remaining so casually chatty. The routine explosions aren't subtle, but they masks all of the unspoken words (and those that will now never be able to be said), and those are subtle. These are all real people, flaws and all, and by resurrecting their ghosts each night, Iris Bahr is making the biggest political statement of all: that it's time to lay the violence to rest.

47th Street Theatre (304 West 47th Street)
Tickets (212-239-6200): $65.00
Performances (through 3/2): Mon.-Wed., Fri. & Sat. @ 6:30 | Sat. @ 2:00 | Sun. @ 5:30

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