Sunday, February 19, 2012

Commentary: Motti Lerner's "At Night's End"

Israeli playwright, Motti Lerner

In The Arts Fuse I comment on Israeli playwright Motti Lerner's At Night's End which was presented last week at the Goethe Institut by Israeli Stage, a theatre company devoted to presenting Israeli plays in translation. The play is presents a family in Haifa during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War. Because of the subject matter, I could not help but recall another play about Israeli families during wartime that has been making the rounds in recent years, Caryl Chruchill's Seven Jewish Children:

Though this family portrait is less-than-flattering, it is a far cry from the crude caricatures presented by English playwright Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children: A Play For Gaza, a short play that has been received considerable international success in recent years. In Churchill’s play, Israelis are not subject to real threats like daily rocket attacks, invasions, and neighboring states that openly endorse Holocaust denial and genocidal fantasies. Lerner, a critic of Israeli military culture, faces these pressures. But he, unlike Churchill, wrestles with the conundrum of how to integrate traumatized warriors into civilian life.


In order to inflame hostility towards Israel, Churchill’s play largely portrays Israelis as European interlopers who have been left morally stunted and psychologically infantile because of their experience and understanding of the Holocaust. Lerner’s work exposes the trauma that war places on Israeli families and civil society, but for the purpose of opening up serious dialogue about how to make Israel a better land for his grandchildren. In short, while Lerner’s Israelis are struggling under genuine historical and social pressures, Churchill’s Israelis have no real world context beyond how the dramatist imagines Jews and their approach to childrearing.

Read the rest in The Arts Fuse!

I previously wrote about Israeli Stage's presentation of Savyon Liebrecht's The Banality of Love.

Nota Bene: Meron Langser, who was also in attendance, discusses the importance of presenting Israeli theatre to American audiences as well as the play's portrayal of post-traumatic stress disorder.

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