SCENES FROM 71* YEARS
Drama by Hannah Khalil
Directed by Michael Malek Hajjar
Golden Thread Productions,
April 5 – May 5, 2019
Reviewed by Kedar K. Adour, MD
A powerful Scenes From 71* Years at Potrero Stage.
It has been 71 years and counting since Palestine became Israel and millions of Palestinians had their homes and land annexed/usurped by what is now the country of Israel that is entrenched both politically and militarily. With the recent election re-installing Benjamin Netanyahu to his 5th term as Prime Minister he has promised a new round of annexation within the West Bank. This makes the asterisk in the title of this play more significant since it represents that the time under Israel domination will increase well beyond the 71 elapsed years.
The political/military turmoil playing out during those 71 years has garnered the most coverage in the world press and there has been a neglect of the personal impact on both Palestinian and Israel individuals. It would have been easier for Irish-Palestinian author Hannah Khalil to write an agitprop polemic play by quoting headlines and articles from the press. Instead she has created a very personal play from stories about individuals and families living under the occupation. It is relatively even handed until the very last scene that inculcates children so that they shall never forget represented in prayers and by the retained keys to their now Israel occupied homes.
The play is constructed in 16 scenes for an ensemble of nine actors playing multiple roles and each scene a personal vignette that instills seeds of emotions from indignation, animosity, resentment and humor. There are quiet, memorable, and upsetting moments with the audience seeming to be confused about how to react with the ensemble creating verisimilitude in their acting. Poignant quiet scenes soften the shock of other disquieting and sometimes violent action.
Dehumanization is brought on by endless checkpoints, non-respect by low-level Israel employees for elongated Arabic names, the intrusion into personal activities and destruction of personal property.
The quality of acting is uneven with brilliant scenes juxtaposed with those played by less qualified actors. The staging is greatly aided by still and moving projections giving the impression of movement when needed. There are simplistic costume changes and director Najjar keeps the action flowing throughout this 90 minute no intermission evening that is filled stories that must be told.
CAST: Marisa Darab, AM Houssan, Nide Khalil, Dean Koya, Karel Lopez, Rasha Mohamed, Lawrence Radecker, Adam E-Sharkaw, and Aya Yarkut.
CREATIVE TEAM: Wesley Apfel (stage manager), James Ard (sound designer), Casse Barnes (lighting designer), Erin Gilley (projection designer), Maya Herbsman (intimacy consultant), Brooke Jennings (costume designer), Carla Pantoja (fight choreographer), Grisel Torres (props master & production manager), and Mikiko Uesugi (scenic designer).
Ensemble Cast: Marisa Darabi, Adam El-Sharkawi, Afif Houssain, Nida Khalil, Dean Koya, Kal’el Lopez, Rasha Mohamed, Lawrence Radecker, and Ayla Yarkut