For a Family of Israeli Settlers, Eviction Before Salvation
To whom does the West Bank belong?
...While the new production at the 14th Street Y is unlikely to change any minds — many of which, let’s be honest, were made up 2,000 years ago — it may at least affect some hearts.
The play follows the Bergers, a family of Zionist settlers facing eviction from the West Bank in 2014 as part of a fictional Israeli peace treaty with the Palestinians....
...A gorgeous earthen set by Jane Stein, with tiny houses that appear to grow out of the furniture like barnacles, highlights the play’s fascination with the ties among land, home and living. And Edward Einhorn’s brisk direction initially crackles with life and energy, overcoming some of the stilted language in Anthony Berris’s translation. Our empathy and identification with the Bergers — a typical family, with typical hungers and thirsts, squabbles and chores — intensifies our discomfort with their increasing radicalization.
As the stakes rise, however, the play, presented by the Untitled Theater Company No. 61, becomes frustratingly polemical. Characters devolve into ideas that have somehow found human hosts. One of the most sympathetic figures — Shmuel’s daughter-in-law, Tirtzah (the feisty Yvonne Roen) — might as well be nicknamed the Voice of Reason.
But the play does make one striking creative choice. While art promoting nonviolence often encourages compassion for the enemy, “Pangs of the Messiah” never shows us any Palestinian grief. Palestinian characters are completely absent from this story, even though we hear newscasts coldly announcing their deaths. Instead Mr. Lerner emphasizes the more selfish reason Jewish people should have for promoting peace: that violence against Arabs will instigate more violence against — and worse, among — Jews.
So simple that even a theater reviewer catches the biased paradigm of presentation, of its one-dimensional effort to malign rather than inform.
Oh, “Pangs of the Messiah” continues through Nov. 20 at the Theater at the 14th Street Y, 344 East 14th Street, East Village; (212) 352-3101,