Aimless in Gaza

Because, finally, the clarity of documentation is all a post-Christian Western observer can provide. It's no business of Hare's to announce, as he does when hit by the contrast between urban Tel Aviv and his first real sight of the desert, that "the Jews do not belong here." In fairness, he's startled by his own thought, and in a sense spends the rest of the piece putting it in context. But the fact remains that Israel and the Palestinians are not his problem; the good Via Dolorosa does in mapping the agonies of the place is almost undone by the hint of imperial complacency with which Hare seems to imply that he, the Englishman of rationality and good will, could fix everything. From that angle, the tinge of exoticism in his tone leads him to miss the larger point. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a peculiarly Middle Eastern phenomenon; such things are happening even as Hare speaks, and even in Europe, from Kosovo to Armagh. Hare doesn't mention them, doesn't draw the global analogy that makes this struggle part of a century's worth of struggles between groups competing for the same space.

Decades ago, a greater London playwright knew better. At some point after the Balfour Declaration established the British Mandate in Palestine (the subject on which Hare was originally commissioned to write), Bernard Shaw turned out a three-page sketch called Arthur and the Acetone, first published in 1936, which ends with GBS himself appearing onstage, the newspaper headlining Balfour's speech in his hand. His comment on the future of Palestine consists of exactly eight words, containing everything Hare says and a great deal more: "Another Ulster! As if one were not enough." If any writer for the English-speaking stage has something fresher or truer to say, it would be welcome.

David Hare in Via Dolorosa: inside a shadow play, a travel lecture
Joan Marcus
David Hare in Via Dolorosa: inside a shadow play, a travel lecture

Details

Via Dolorosa
By David Hare
Booth Theatre
45th Street and Broadway
239-6200

Marcel Marceau
Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse
68th Street and Lexington Avenue
772-4448

Marcel Marceau, infinitely wise at 75, knows better than to spoil his act by saying anything at all, and knows how to walk across a stage even while standing in one place. The true secret of mime— sustaining the convention once you've set it up— is his stock in trade. When he has to climb a very high ladder, you always know exactly where he is in relation to the top step. He's so precise with his nonexistent props that sometimes, in the pieces that call on him to play multiple characters, you catch yourself wondering where he's stashed the thing he just had in his hands. Marceau's pieces don't go very far dramatically, and old memories— I haven't seen him for a few decades— tempt me to say they once went further. But it may just be that memory sharpens its few keepsakes. If his face has fleshed out with age, his body seems if anything younger and quicker: Watch the prosecutor's arm in "The Trial" when he demands the death penalty; David Hare should study it. Even more, watch "The Maskmaker." Do I remember the relief at the end of this masterpiece being more palpable? Yes, but I don't recall the middle, with its rapid on-and-off of masks, being carried out with such brilliant ease. And this is only Program A. How I wish I had time for B.

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