April 1, 2009
By Jan Lisa Huttner
Jewish United Fund News
The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs has a new Randolph Street venue for “jewel box” productions called DCA Theater. The current play, The Arab-Israeli Cookbook, is a collection of vignettes based on actual interviews conducted by playwright Robin Soans in 2003. Eight talented actors each play a multitude of characters, and each voice is interesting, but I’m afraid the whole is less than the sum of its parts. Snippets of common humanity may be fine for appetizers and side dishes, but there’s no substantive main course, and I left feeling hungry, even after the post-play Q&A.
I had the opposite reaction when I saw the Silk Road Theatre Project’s new production of Pangs of the Messiah. Pangs is set in a West Bank settlement sometime in the near future. The United States is brokering a peace agreement that will finally establish a Palestinian state, and the residents of the settlement are in turmoil.
I was deeply moved by their predicament, and I was on the edge of my seat from start to finish. I was especially impressed by the balance of male and female voices. Israeli playwright Motti Lerner never lets us forget the demands of daily life, even under the most extreme conditions. Whatever your own personal feelings are about “the two state solution,” it is critical to remember that specific lives will be forever affected by politically-motivated decisions, and Lerner’s accomplishment is to show there simply are no easy answers.