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From Tel Aviv to Ramallah: A Beatbox Journey

by Rich See

Yuri Lane
Y. Lane
Theater J continues its examination of the shared Israeli/Palestinian experience and the causes of their continuing conflicts with the one-man performance piece From Tel Aviv to Ramallah: A Beatbox Journey. Written and directed by Rachel Havrelock and starring Yuri Lane, the production tells the story of two young men and how their lives interconnect while being physically separated by military border crossings.

Mr. Lane does an amazing job. The performance is really a tour de force showcasing his energy and talent. With just minor background percussive music and a constant swirl of video images to keep him company, he brings to life the duality and commonality of the Israeli and Palestinian worlds. In hip hop fashion he creates a seemingly constant stream of vocalizations that are the sound effects of the various machines, places, and activities surrounding and filling his characters' lives and the cities in which they live. His dancing and occasional need to quench his thirst add humor to the evening's discussion of a very serious subject that has affected millions of people for the past half century.

With grainy video images flashing behind him, Lane opens the story with Amir, a delivery driver and young Israeli "everyman," living at home with his family in Tel Aviv and dreaming of becoming a world famous disc jockey. Sixty kilometers (approximately 37.5 miles) away in Ramallah lives Khalid, another twenty-something "everyman" and entrepreneur who has recently opened his own Internet cafe in an attempt to help his city and the Palestinian people thrive and grow. Each man thinks his city is the best place on Earth to live, each dreams of a better life for himself, and each is unknowingly being pulled into a greater tragic drama.

A flaw of the evening is that writer Rachel Havrelock's Palestinians appear one-dimensional. Khalid is made to seem incredibly naive, in fact he appears almost bumpkin-like, completely incognizant of the dangers that surround him, although he lives in an occupied territory where machine gun toting soldiers break down doors. Meanwhile, his radical cousin, who dreams of being a suicide bomber, seems so brooding that he appears sinister. In contrast Amir, his family, and friends are surprisingly shallow, uninformed, and almost in denial. Since both Havrelock and Lane have spent time in Tel Aviv and Ramallah, perhaps these are their experiences.

With late night showings Theater J is obviously gearing this performance towards a younger audience, however older theatre patrons shouldn't let the hip hop aspects of the production sway them from attending. On the evening I saw From Tel Aviv to Ramallah Mr. Lane received a standing ovation from much of the audience, the majority of whom were well over the age of 25. Although the evening strikes all the right emotional chords, if you are looking for a production that examines the causes of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, you will have to go elsewhere. Havrelock and Lane leave history in the past and pick up in the present to show how two average, politically disenfranchised young people are affected by the carnage of violence handed to them from previous generations. And with the United States now a fixture in Iraq, it might be good idea for all of us to look at what it takes to push a tranquil man to pick up a rock and defend his existence.

From Tel Aviv to Ramallah: A Beatbox Journey
Written and Directed by Rachel Havrelock
with Yuri Lane
Lighting Design: Lynn Joslin
Video Projection Artist: Sharif Ezzat
Running Time: 1 hour with no intermission
A production of Theater J
Washington DCJCC, 1529 16th Street NW
Telephone: Tickets 1-800-494-TIXS, Info 202-777-3229
MON @7:30, SAT @10, SUN @5; $15-$22
Opening 11/01/03, closing 11/30/03
Reviewed by Rich See based on 11/09/03 performance

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