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A CurtainUp Review
Hard Love

I guess I must look different to you without payes and a beard.—┬áZvi
  Hard Love
Victoria Mack and Ian Kahn
When Zvi (Ian Kahn), a lapsed orthodox Jew, walks into the home of his ultra-orthodox ex-wife, Hannah (Victoria Mack), it is with the idea of convincing her to allow his son by a second marriage to court her daughter by a second marriage. But it doesn't take long for the conversation to go in a very different direction. Thus begins Israeli playwright Motti Lerner's domestic drama Hard Love, directed by TACT artistic director Scott Alan Evans.

It turns out Zvi had once been orthodox too, but his questioning of God and religion had caused him to lose faith. Twenty years ago, when he insisted on leaving the religious Mea She'arim district in Jerusalem for the more secular and worldly Tel Aviv, Hannah had demurred. Zvi went on to remarry and become a successful author of novels Hannah considers sinful. Hannah, at her parents' insistence, married a sickly scholar old enough to be her father.

As the scholar lies dying in the hospital Zvi tries to convince Hannah they still love each other. In the beginning, Hannah refuses to even look at Zvi. But eventually her desire overcomes her religious and moral reservations. She leaps into Zvi's arms and they make lusty and energetic love, remarkably taking off very little of their clothing but turning over a chair as they use the table as a convenient base of support. While they are making love, the scholar dies just in time to free Hannah from her vows.

Scene two takes us to Zvi's home in Tel Aviv, where he is living with his newest love interest, a librarian who is dedicated to literature and has encouraged Zvi in his writing. The tables are now turned in delicious but puzzling ways, both between Zvi and Hannah and between their respective children. This time there is no love scene and Zvi's girlfriend does not obligingly die.

It would be remiss not to point out that this a particularly contrived plot. But it would be unfair to say it is without interest. Watching Kahn and Mack is fascinating, probably even for those who do not know the details of Jewish law. The give and take even manages to surmount unexceptional acting.

Even with Evans's overuse of distracting and overly dramatic lighting, the play moves steadily towards its conclusion — a conclusion so unclear the audience was not quite sure the show was over, but a conclusion nevertheless.

Hard Love explains the problems faced by orthodox Jews when they lose their faith or interact with the larger community. But it does not make these people sympathetic or interesting enough to make us care.

Hard Love by Motti Lerner
Directed by Scott Evans
Cast: Victoria Mack (Hannah), Ian Kahn.hillman (Zvi)
Set Design: John McDermott
Light Design: Aaron Copp
Costume Design: Kim Krumm Sorenson
Sound Design: Toby Jaguar Algya
Production Stage Manager: Kelly Burns
Running Time: 90 min including intermission.
TACT/The Actors Company Theatre at The Beckett Theatre 410 West 42nd Street
From 9/29/15; opening 10/11/15; closing 10/31/15
Tuesday at 7pm, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2 & 8pm, Sunday at 2pm
Tickets: $15-$53.25 (212) 239-6200
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Oct. 7, 2015
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