“No one is smart enough to be a Jew,” complains Ian Fleishman, the neurotic teen hero of Dan Fishback’s You Will Experience Silence. “Not even Jews!”
The playwright might be the exception to this rule. He’s written a script nearly intelligent enough to encompass the tribe’s vexing 3,000-plus years worth of baggage. Literal baggage, in fact: One monologue traces the fate of the Jews’ luggage as they flee from one diaspora-land to the next.
Fishback has a Kushnerian sense for the complexities of historical memory, and while You Will Experience Silence might not be as panoramic as Angels in America, it’s sassier and more fun. The meditations of ultraliberal, antiwar activist Fleishman (Fishback)—who’s thinking of taking a nihilist holiday from his bleeding-heart torment and wants the U.S. government to redress homophobia by finding him a boyfriend—coexist with a topsy-turvy Hannukah tale with echoes of the Iraq conflict. Two sex-obsessed queer adolescents in Greek-controlled Judea, one of whom happens to be Judas Maccabee (also played Fishback), see unexpected perks in their country’s Hellenic subjection (public nude wrestling!). As Maccabee struggles with the notion of violent resistance preached by his fundamentalist father, complicating matters is a studly Greek soldier with a surprisingly poetic touch (Joseph Keckler). The play’s two halves add up to a forceful, often hilarious reflection on the politics of American occupation.