On the Grill’ Serves Conflict at Israeli Party at Dobama Theatre
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In Israel, like in the United States, Independence Day is often celebrated with family and friends around the grill. But it’s also a time for tension in a new play from Israel that received its North American debut at Dobama Theatre last night.
In Dror Keren’s “On the Grill,” Mordi, who is suffering from PTSD, returns from Berlin after four years to the kibbutz in Northern Israel where he grew up. He visits his family and friends as they celebrate their country’s independence. Mordi has brought with him his non-Jewish German partner, Johanna, which causes some friction.
Adding to that tension, one of the party guest’s son is missing along the border, where news reports about conflict keep everyone on edge.
“All of this in a way is common [for] people in the kibbutz during this specific time, makes it a different kind of a party. Things that started quite easily, with everyone wanting it to be a happy time, it becomes another thing,” Keren said.
Keren said that while Israelis aren’t constantly thinking about the military conflicts in which their country is involved, it isn’t far removed from their consciousness.
“It’s not everyday life, but it is throughout our history. I’m 54, my father was in the Israeli Air Force. I’ve lived with it, it’s my life. It’s in our songs and folklore. We sing about it. The word “hope” is the title of our hymn. We sing it, but we don’t live it. That is what I wanted to discuss in “On the “Grill.”
In Hebrew, the play’s title is “On the Fire,” but Keren thinks the translation Dobama chose for its’ production is also a good fit.
“This is the fire of the meat and barbeque, but it is also the fire of the guns and tanks and war, so I think “On the Grill” is quite suitable for what is going on there,” Keren said.
Keren understands that certain historical elements of the play, which are familiar to an Israeli audience, might not be known by American theater-goers. But he feels the larger experience“On the Grill” delivers extends beyond particular cultures.
“One of the wonderful things I’ve heard Nathan Motta (Dobama’s artistic director) say, ‘A father is a father, mother is a mother and families are families, and a barbeque is a common thing in America as well,’ so it can work. There are many universal themes in the play that people will see and identify with.”
Dobama Theatre with sponsorship by the Cleveland Israel Arts Connection (a program of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland), is producing the American premiere of “On the Grill.” The play runs now through July 8th.