Screen shot 2011-01-15 at 9.54.14 PM

Dark, Painful, and Thrilling
By Michael Handelzalts
31 August, 2010

There is a theatre in Haifa. It’s located at 2 Khoury St. It’s not the Haifa municipality theatre, but rather the Arab Theatre—Al Midan, which has existed for 15 years. Now it has a new director, Riad Masarwe, who spoke at the end of the show in Arabic, in front of a full audience of Arabic speaking people. I didn’t understand much except that he spoke of the theatre’s tough financial situation. The theatre receives only 1 million shekel from the Ministry of Education. He also spoke about Ariel and got a strong response from the audience with a lot clapping.

The most important part of the evening, I understood very well, though it was in Arabic, a language that—to my shame—I never bothered to learn. I understood it because it was made by a director and three actors who could—and did—perform successfully in the Hebrew speaking theatre. Especially interesting for theatre lovers is the fact that two of the actors are the second generation of highly renowned theatre actors: Clara Khoury, the daughter of Makram Khoury; and Saleh Bakri, the son of Mohammad Bakri. Both fathers were in the audience.

But all this wouldn’t take my attention unless it was an impressive theatrical work. The drama of Dorfman is about a woman who was a victim of torture and rape confronting the one who tortured and raped her. She now has the opportunity to give him a taste of the pain and humiliation she experienced, and she does it in front of her husband’s eyes. Her husband is a lawyer who has been appointed to head the commission that will investigate accusations of torture in the period of the overthrown regime. But, he will only investigate the cases that resulted in death. The story is best known from the film, but the director, Juliano Merr-Khamis tightened the story to one hour and fifteen minutes that left the entire audience on the edge of their seats. He achieved with his actors sharp and precise performances, and I was sorry that he, himself, was not on the stage as an actor.

The hardest role of the play belongs to Saleh Bakri, the husband and the witness to his wife’s suffering. He presents the role respectfully, though his personality is still too young for the part. Amer Hlehel in the role of the torturer was very impressive and convincing, in both his denial and his confession. But, the evening belongs—without a doubt—to Clara Khoury, from whom you could not take your eyes off or disconnect your feelings.

Death and the Maiden Al Midan Theatre
Directed by: Juliano Merr Khamis
Starring: Clara Khoury, Amer Hlehel, and Saleh Bakri