Karen Sunde's How His Bride Came To Abraham is clearly one of the timeliest productions to make an appearance on the New York stage in this era of international hostility. The Praxis Theatre Project has taken residence at the Looking Glass Theatre and is quietly yet artfully making an anti-war protest with a political boldness that rivals that of the Dixie Chicks.
Near the Lebanese border in occupied territory, an Israeli Defense Forces second lieutenant and a young Palestinian woman are forced to spend a night together. Between fights and threats of who was going to kill whom first and how, their fears collide with an unexpected desire for warmth and love.
Courtney Patrick Mitchell's intimate direction was profound and modern. He and set designer Jenny B. Sawyers brought the action of the play into the audience section in a style that was reminiscent of the set of Starlight Express. Seating was available all around the staged area, giving each audience member a different view of the show. The effect was riveting.
Maya Serhan (an artist who comes from Beirut and is of Palestinian origin herself) played the zealous role of Sabra. The inspirational actress portrayed her role with the depth and wisdom characteristic of one who understands the Israeli/Palestine conflict first hand. The role seemed to be created for this actress alone. Her grace and natural beauty were compelling as she cooked, cleaned, and handled artillery with calm and dexterity.
Israeli TV star Amir Babayoff played the role of Abraham with a masculine passion that was charmingly helpless. Hobbling around the stage from a wound to his foot, his restricted mobility was believable and engaging. The casting for both the leads was impeccable.
Janine Marie McCabe displayed a gorgeously accurate wardrobe for the actors complete with detailed army gear for Babayoff and convincingly outdated styles for Serhan's character. When Serhan wakes up early in the morning to put a vest full of explosives under her clothes, the effect was disturbing and real.
The play also featured the voice of Emily Mitchell as the Gramma whose voice was heard as a sort of guardian angel. Her dialogue referencing the Jewish Holocaust was touching. Joseph Saraceno (Dog-Star) played the voice of the soldier on the radio from backstage.
Music for the production was composed by Darryl Gregory and performed by Sa-Reel Project. Josh Bradford created the lighting design.
Ian Marshall did a fantastic job of choreographing fight scenes that were realistic even when the actors were five inches from the audience members.
Sunde's play is one that may have the power to heal via exposure and understanding given the opportunity. For those of us Americans who know very little about the ancient conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the viewing of this production would be a healthy introduction to the world outside our front door.
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Copyright 2003 Jade Esteban Estrada