A distinguished-looking man rises from the audience of well-wishers and friends to claim a prestigious award. It recognizes him for his exceptional contributions to surgery and to his country. The country is Israel and the man’s name is Amin Jaafari.
In his deft acceptance speech he proudly mentions that in the more than 40 years that Israel has been awarding this coveted prize, this is the first time it has been awarded to an Arab.
The next day he is back at work, responding to the needs of people killed and maimed in a terrorist attack by a suicide bomber.
Later that night he is awakened by the police, who inform him that his wife’s body has been recovered from the bombed restaurant where l7 people had died, including 11 children who were celebrating a birthday.
What’s more, the police say, from the pattern of wounds left on her body, they suspect that his wife was, in fact, the suicide bomber.
This scenario comprises the first few minutes of the Arab-Israeli film “The Attack,” and from there the film rolls out to become a quiet film noir that would be a credit to Alfred Hitchcock.
Nearly paralyzed by disbelief, Jaafari (convincingly played by Ali Suliman) sets out to prove her innocence by tracing her activities on the last day of her life.
The pursuit takes him from his comfortable apartment in Tel Aviv to various sites around Israel, including the Arab village of Nablus where angry Palestinians congregate. He meets a Catholic priest who blandly berates him for not sharing his wife’s convictions, which she felt so strongly about that they were enough to justify her martyrdom. Convictions that her husband was completely unaware of.
He meets a sheik who spits out a vitriolic diatribe against the Jews that hasn’t been voiced since the Third Reich.
And Jaafari is left to ponder his own role in the past and future of this troubled country that has allowed him to flourish and prosper, and to confront the fact that there was a whole area of her life that his loving wife had not shared with him.
Reymonde Amsellam plays Siham, the wife, with quiet sophistication and sexy charm, and the rest of the Israeli cast is intense and well directed by Ziad Doueiri from a book by Yasmina Khadra.
Despite the potentially grim subject matter the story unfolds with dignity and neither the Arabs nor the Israelis are characterized as villains. This appears to be confirmed by the fact that myriad companies and corporations throughout Europe and the Middle East have collaborated on sponsoring this slow-paced, but compelling production.
“The Attack” is currently showing at various Laemmle theaters around Los Angeles.
From here to eternity via Arkansas
“I’m having a very bad apocalypse,” says Brandon (Marco Naggar) after a long, nightmarish trip to avoid the “Rapture.”
It all starts when he bursts in on Rebecca (Zibby Allen) and her boyfriend Dan (Micah Cohen, alternating with Ben Belack) to tell them “Christ is back!” and people are disappearing all over New York City, leaving their clothes behind and their cars driverless and crashing into other cars.
Thus begins Samuel Brett Williams’ new play, “Revelation,” now having its world premiere at the Lillian Theatre in Hollywood.
Brandon, whom Rebecca identifies as the certified “Jesus freak” who lives next door, is frantically urging the couple to join him on his escape to Arkansas, where his father, a back-country preacher, had assured him that The New Jerusalem would arise at the time of the Rapture.
Dan is unconvinced and decides to take shelter in his father’s apartment, but he doesn’t make it once he leaves Rebecca’s.
Rebecca, abandoned, decides to throw in her lot with Brandon and make the trip with him to Arkansas.
From there the play, and the trip, becomes a modern-day “The Canterbury Tales,” with all sorts of weird and horrifying characters turning up to bedevil them. And Brandon keeps track as they undergo each of the Bible’s Seven Seals, as described in the Book of Revelation. It’s a bit like the 10 plagues visited upon the pharaoh during Passover week. Not at all like Ingmar Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal.”
This may sound like a heavy-duty production, but it’s actually a lot of fun. The two principals, Naggar and Allen, are both excellent and letter-perfect under the tight and efficient directing of Lindsay Allbaugh, and the sound and lighting by Peter Bayne and Matt Richter keep the drama moving along expeditiously.
There’s a bit of philosophy, a bit of pseudo-religion, a lot of skepticism, and some mordant commentary on the precepts of Christianity. Finally, there is an encounter with Michael, The Gatekeeper (Carolina Espiro), who has gorgeous white full-body feathered wings, a mouth full of chewing gum, and a New York accent. He/she invites Rebecca into Heaven to lose her individual identity and become part of The Glob that will spend eternity loving God.
The encounter is jarring for Brandon and turns him from a “Jesus freak” into, like Pinocchio, a “real boy.”
Unless you are a Jesus freak yourself, you will find much to laugh at during the course of this fast-moving, 90-minute dark comedy
“Revelation” will continue Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. through Aug. 25 at the Lillian Theatre at the Elephant Stages, 1076 Lillian Way in Hollywood. Call (855) 663-6743 or visit www.ElephantTheatre.org for reservations.
Cynthia Citron can be reached at email@example.com.