One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest immediately comes to mind, but then Alma says she didn’t like that film as it doesn’t deal with the fact that McMurphy raped a 15-year-old girl. Manic depressive Alma (Neta Roth) is a patient at an Adolescent Psychiatric Institution, where the unfolding drama is set. The play centers on the period during which drama teacher Naama (Tom Antopolsky) comes to work with five hospitalised teens on a show based on their experiences, which they will write and perform.
Naama is welcomed by the good doctor Yoresh (Gilad Kletter), who doesn’t expect the undertaking to reach fruition. But she is fully dedicated to inspire the kids to commit to the performance. During the next weeks, each of them deals which his own demons, and parents. In some cases the demons are the parents. Barak (Noam Frank) is about to be discharged and go back home, if he can only learn to control his rage (his father is afraid he will ruin his brother’s Bar Mitzvah). Tamara (Bar Miniely), on the other hand, has just arrived, after a suicide attempt. Traumatized Bat-Sheva (Ruth Sandrovich) comes from an ultra-orthodox family and believes her arm is broken and won’t heal, and Emanuel (Solo Geva) has Asparagus (or is it Aspegrers?) and a deep fear of social interaction.
Through the letters they are asked to write to their maladies (Dear Aunt Mania and Uncle Depression), all five manage to take some steps forward, and sometimes backwards. Their shared experiences also yield dark humor which they incorporate into the songs they prepare for their performance.
The prolific playwright Roy Chen spent six months researching at the “Abarnabel” Pshyciatric Hospital in Israel. Working closely with director Ealeal Semel, the two devised a unique approach that combines realism with a highly stylized direction. The seemingly opposing strains of theater balance each other and the result is a very intimate and moving theatrical experience.
The play is performed in a warehouse where the audience sit around a round stage in the middle. The five kids climb in and out of their beds and onto the stage, where they play the drama of their lives. A pianist and a cellist dressed in scrubs sit by the stage and provide beautiful live accompaniment.
The most crucial creative decision was to cast teens in the main roles, in order to achieve emotional authenticity. This idea turned out to be a stroke of genius. All five are experienced truly gifted actors, and they fully embody their characters with deeply felt performances. Geva is particularly touching in an understated performance, and Miniely is outstanding as the introvert youngster who blooms when coming out as a boy trapped in a female body.
The two adults in the roles of the caretakers are also very good, portraying good willed yet flawed characters. Two more actors play the roles of all the parents, some of which are not particularly stable themselves. On the evening I attended the play, the actor usually playing the father (Ori Yaniv) was at home with Covid, and his role was filled by Ido Mosseri who had 24 hours to learn the lines and jump in. He did an admirable job, as did Karin Serrouya, both juggling five different characters.
Not all the dramatic threads are fully developed, but the whole is richer than the some of its parts. And by the end of the evening, when the five young actors climb on the beds and introduce themselves to the audience by their real names, the effect is somehow even more heart stirring than Brechtian.
- By Roy Chen
- Director: Ealeal Semel
- Music: Ronnie Reshef
- Lighting Design: Eliyahu Saravaysky
- Stage Design, Costume Design, lion mask: Polina Adamov
- Cast: Gilad Kletter, Tom Antopolsky, Noam Frank, Bar Miniely, Ruth Sandrovich, Solo Geva, Neta Roth.
- Gesher Theatre Tel Aviv/Yaffo תיאטרון גשר
- Check theatre website (long run)
- Duration: 100 minutes