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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
By Laura Hitchcock

When an aspiring playwright of Arab/Israeli parentage writes his first play about the Arab/Israeli conflict and premieres it on September 11th, you suspect didacticism and tediousness may be in store. There's unavoidably something of the first in Shakir Yusif Farsakh's Convergence but none of the second.

With skilful structuring, the use of dreams and exceptional music and dance elements, Farsakh has turned out a mesmering piece. His central characters are Colonel Amos Eitan, an Israeli military commander, and Mahmoud Yacoub, leader of Soldiers of the Struggle, a Palestine suicide bombers' brigade. In opening monologues, each gives his side of the war.

Two incidents follow, each involving the violent deaths of innocent people. In the first a pregnant Palestinian woman dies at the checkpoint she cannot pass when it's discovered her family's papers have expired. In the second, a young girl who wants to work for peace argues with her fiancé who has joined the Israeli Army but the argument becomes pointless when the they are both blown up by a suicide bomber.

Realistic scenes of the two leaders' dealings with their colleagues and crises are interspersed by the dreams they have under the auspices of the Spirit Dancer,who sweeps them into the worlds of their opposite numbers. Eitan repeatedly dreams of the Palestinian woman's family life and death at his checkpoint while Mahmoud dreams of the home life and death of the young Jewish couple at the hands of his suicide bomber. In each repetition, the protagonists become more aware of their lives, their fates and the watching dreamer. As they move deeper into the dreams, they and the watching dreamer become warmer and more empathetic.

Farsakh's point that this happens only in dreams is sadly ironic but, as the son of a Palestinian father and Jewish mother, he very even-handedly presents both points of view while, through the repetitive dreams, manages the difficult feat of crafting well-rounded characters and letting us watch him do it.

Grammy-winning songwriter Michael Silversher provides the haunting music. Beautiful Maya G. Karasso choreographed and dances the Spirit Dancer with exquisite grace.

Herzl Tobey brings steely resolve to his role of Eitan. Roy Avigdori is fiercely passionate as Mahmoud, though his accent and the speed of his delivery sometimes make him difficult to understand. The other versatile actors are double cast, reinforcing Farsakh's vision of union by playing both Arab and Israeli characters. Sarah Ripard, who also co-produces with her husband Kaspian Black, veers effectively from a bossy Palestinian matron to a sensuous determined Jewish girl.

Director Anthony Barnao, whose Blue Sphere Alliance presents Convergence, makes excellent use of The Lex Theatre's small space and draws out the humanity in characters which could very well be played as prototypes. Cris Capp's light design succeeds in expressing the desert ambiance and bringing out the dimensions of Burris Jackson's set.

Convergence is a rare combinination of social realism with art and hopefully will find a wide international audience.

Playwright: Shakir Yusif Farsakh
Director: Anthony Barnao
Cast: Maya G. Karasso, Iman (Spirit Dancer), Herzl Tobey (Amos Eitan), Roy Avigdori (Mahmoud Yacoub), Ali Saam (Abdullah Ruhi, Lieutenant Yitzhak Meir), Bashar Da'as (Abu Mohammed, Lt. Avi Goldber), Sarah Ripard (Leila Waleed, Tavi Barak), Sanjay Chandani (Samir Waleed, Gal Barak), Adrian R'Mante (Nassem Waleed, Ron Ben Ami), Nicola Seixas (Merav), David Green (Soldier 1), Markell Pool (Soldier 2), Nelly Pardo (Amira, Lt. Leah Rafowitz), Ipale (Ziyad Abu Kash, Manachem Cohen)
Set Design: Burris Jackson
Lighting Design: Chris Capp
Sound Design: Ryan Crosby
Running Time: Two hours, 45 minutes, with one 10-minute intermission
Running Dates: September 11-October 18, 2003.
Where: Blue Sphere Alliance at The Lex, 6760 Lexington Avenue, Hollywood, Ph: (323) 957-5782.
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on.September 11.
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