Sunday, December 02, 2007

West Bank, U.K.

Photo/David Gochfeld

So, imagine there's this apartment, right? And this Jewish guy, Assaf (Jeremy Cohen) who has been subletting the apartment for two years, suddenly returns home to find that there's a Palestinian man, Aziz (Mike Mosallam), living there. Assaf demands his home back, but Aziz refuses to go, and the landlord -- who happens to be a sex-starved American girl (Michelle Solomon) -- forces the two to share the apartment. At first, things are great: after all, according to the two of them, they share the same hook nose, the same taste in food, and similar songs, like "My Hometown"; the two even start sleeping together. But their relations quickly sour, and it isn't long until they've split the apartment down the middle; such a thing could never happen, right? But just in case that wasn't clear enough, Oren Safdie widens the scope in a nonsensical way to fit in songs about diplomacy (the American landlord finds out she has a Russian brother), the sensationalism of the media ("We like the action hot, hot, hot/when people get shot, shot, shot"), suicide bombers ("72 Virgins"), the dream of home (the country spoof, "Here's My Passport, Please Don't Turn Me Back"), the necessity of violence ("Nothing Works Better Than Force"), and an outsider's fear of it ("I'd like to cut you up/(beat) but it's tea time!"). Many of these segments are currently strained, but at least they make a point in an often comic tone, are well-sung (if sometimes drowned out), and have an excitingly ethnic orchestration by Ronnie Cohen (which includes the oud). What's not currently working for West Bank, U.K. is how these skits are all crammed together: the play becomes a musical sitcom. Additionally, songs that have no parallel, while clever, confuse the point of the play: too many are about slutty girls ("Addictive Personality" for one; in another, "Why can't a girl be nasty and love God?"). Still, the play ends on absolutely the right note: with all the comedy aside, and the two roommates circling each other, knives out, in a dance to the death that will have no end.

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