Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Gilad Evron's Ulysses on Bottles

(Part of a series in which I make up for not updating my blog recently.)

Back in November I attended Israeli Stage's presentation of a staged reading of Gilad Evron's play Ulysses
on Bottles.
It's a powerful piece that explores the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with some subtlety and moral complexity. Hopefully, director Guy Ben-Aharon will be able to give it a fully-mounted production sometime soon.

As I wrote in The Arts Fuse:

At first, no one quite knows what to make of the prisoner (played by Johnny Lee Davenport). Neither the Defense Ministry, prosecutors, nor defense attorney Saul Izakov (Jeremiah Kissel) can make sense of his actions. He offers no political argument, expresses no sympathy for the Hamas regime in charge of Gaza, no animosity towards Israel (he seems wholly content with his life as an Arab citizen of Israel). Of course, Ulysses’s actions would make sense if his cargo had been food or medical supplies or even if he were a terrorist sympathizer. However, Ulysses only asserts his conviction that “the Gazans are dying to study Russian literature. It’s a breeze that rises higher than the kites they fly on the shore.” Psychiatrists determine that, however quixotic his mission, the man is quite sane.

The issue of food and medicine is central to Izakov’s other client: the Defense Ministry. Izakov meets with an official named Seinfeld (Will Lyman) to sort out the latter’s legal conundrum: how to legally contend with the population of a Gaza governed by a de facto state-within-a-state constitutionally sworn to Israel’s destruction? Despite the hostilities, the blockade makes the government “responsible for their food, their drink, their sewage, their literature,their security, their iron, their contraceptives, their toys, their pots and pans, their spices, their flowers, their meat, their electricity, their paper, their medications, their engines [. . .] even their anti-diarrheal pills!” Seinfeld wants to make sure that no one under his command can be charged with crimes, but he also understands that, given the political stalemate, abiding by the law will not ward off armed conflict, such as the one that began just days before the November 18th reading. Izakov grasps that the law to which he is dedicated is not sufficient to help his most powerful client.

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