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The Rabbi is a withdrawn, bitter man and he's hardly welcoming when Anna, a young German woman, arrives in his quarters to learn Hebrew. Yet, the blackboard on which the letters of the Hebrew alphabet will be spelled out is in place so it's hardly surprising that the lessons proceed -- or that both teacher and student have lessons to be learned and secrets to reveal and put to rest..
The author of Two, Ron Elisha, was born in Israel but has lived in Australia since he was two years old. This play now being given its New York premiere, has had productions all over the world and won the Australian Writer's Guild award for Best Stage Play.
Elisha has wrought some moments of strong feeling and humor from this story about the ravages of war on the human soul, and the Hebrew lessons that are the main dramatic device provide some interesting insights. However, the overall mood is more depressing than uplifting and the most enjoyable moments come not from the script but from the music especially composed by James Matheson and beautifully performed by Jane Cho and Steven Zynszajn. These young musicians are on stage practically throughout this too long play. Since both the Rabbi ad Anna were once musicians, the discussion and playing of classical music is mixed in with the intricacies of the Hebrew lessons. This has prompted director Bernice Rohret to integrate the young musicians into the action (of which there is very little). Each time the Rabbi asks Anna to play the violin, she walks over to Mr. Zynszajn and stands behind him as he plays. Similarly, the Rabbi several times joins Ms. Cho at the piano. It adds a somewhat stylized but interesting touch.
Mark Hammer, who shares this role with Tibor Feldman, was on stage at the performance I attended. According to the advance press information, this was a choice dictated by the demands of the role (sort of like the two Janis Joplins in Love, Janis). While Mr. Hammer is a capable actor, Irene Glezos who plays Anna at all performances, struck me as having the more demanding role and bringing to it the few sparks this play ignites.
It could be bad timing. People looking for relief from suffering, entertainment rather than enlightenment. However, at any time, while Two is a worthy testament to humankind's capacity for regeneration, it is too static -- at least as directed here-- to warrant a two and a half hour production.
If you go, be sure to take your seat as soon as the doors open. The brief pre-show concert is a treat.
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