This past Tuesday I attended a performance of the Holy Land at HERE (145 6th ave). The performance was originally written by French-Algerian playwright Mohammad Kacimi. Translated by Chantal Bilodeau, the tale begins in what could represent Iraq, Afghanistan or possibly Israel. The running narrative throughout the play revolves around the dehumanization and brutality associated with war and military conflict.
The play begins with Imen (Pia Haddad) lying motionless on the floor, sounds of footsteps are heard eventually leading to thundering banging on the front door. From this point Ian (Gil Perez-Abraham) barges in with the erratic composure one might expect to find from a indoctrinated militant. He begins questioning Imen about a flag belonging to his regiment being torched. It’s at this moment that the viewer begins to understand the apathetic tolerance someone may develop after years of living amongst battle and destruction. His attention glides from the trivial matter at hand to a pool of blood on the floor. Imen responds to his curiosity stating the injury belonged to Jesus. Though this is not the Son of God, but something more wholesome and quite cuddly; it is her tabby cat, which had been wounded by a skittish soldier.
As the play develops, the dialogue between the characters seems to fall under a shelter of comedic relief. In certain instances the main character Imen attempts to converse in serious terms with her neighbor’s husband Yad (JoJo Gonzalez), which seems to fall on deaf ears. Although RPGs, missiles and fighter jets are enough to destroy the hearing of a fox, it’s the disillusionment from the situation ten meters outside the window that shroud the senses.
As the plot nears Yad’s son, Amin (Sean Carvajal) falters under his misguided intentions to be a “hero”. After witnessing the destruction of his neighbor’s house, the overwhelming smell of death forces Amin to reach his threshold, launching him into a retrogressive downward spiral. The enraged disenchantment for the pain he has suffered through returns full circle, resulting in nefarious acts that fail to justify his intentions. Amin kills a soldier standing beneath his window with a broken television set by which his mother Alia (Ana Grosse) leaves his presence to suffer his consequences.
The play ends with Amin attempting to rape Imen, chanting “God is Good” in a somewhat uncomfortable manner. His actions I believe are supposed to mimic the animalistic behavior associated with jihad extremists, but seem to throw off the flow of the play. This scene plateaus with Yad catching his son in the gruesome act and is forced to take appropriate measures with absent clemency. The final scene returns the viewer to the dialogue the play opened with, this time abruptly ending with a second superfluous rape scene between Imen and the soldier Ian.
Overall I enjoyed the performance and believe that the actors did a good job at portraying their intended characters. Although the plot seemed to punch gears around the forty minute mark, for a sixty minute play this is rightfully expected. Anyone interested in a raw Camus-esque style of play with a touch of Balabanov will enjoy this production. HERE offers a great intimate L-shaped experience to get lost in and is worth the attention of an avid or occasional thespian.
Holy Land will be running through May 10th and tickets can be purchased here.
Twisted Talk: What’s the last play you saw in New York City? Would you recommend it? Discuss below!