There are cases when it’s third-time lucky. After two disappointing productions of Shakespeare (Gesher Theater’s “Othello” and the Khan Theater’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor”), I found in Be’er Sheva a fascinating improvisation that is highly respectful to the original, yet also bold, new and different. The achievement is even more remarkable because the subject at hand is ancient and familiar: “Romeo and Juliet.”
The director, Irad Rubinstein, who clearly knows the original well, approaches the text with theatrical intelligence – for example, by weaving successive scenes (Juliet and the nurse, Romeo and the friar) into one purposeful scene. Thus, with the help of a free and everyday-style translation into Hebrew, but which is at the same time poetic and faithful – a work of love by Eli Bijaoui – he interlaces the play’s noble, romantic and tragic elements with its comic, earthly and violent layer. The stage and textual confidence of this director, who is just at the beginning of his career, is already extremely impressive.
He sets the story of these lost lovers in a contemporary dystopian society where violence and decadence reign, peopled by leather-jacketed motorcyclists and barbarian aristocrats with outward mannerisms of honor and pettiness. Every given moment on the stage is both an invented and represented reality and an artificial slice of well-planned theater. The stage fights by Uri Bostan, choreography by Amit Zamir, costumes by Maor Zabar, lighting by Ziv Voloshin, music by Ran Bagno are all excellent.
The stage is also populated by a large group of splendid actors. The comic layer is in the skilled hands of Moli Shulman as the friar and Sarit Vino-Elad as the nurse; the society of brutish barons is played by Michal Weinberg, Amir Krief and Adva Adani, who bring each character to life in all his or her human details; and Tom Hagi gives us a charming Mercutio (perhaps, in the best tradition, he will occasionally switch roles with Romeo).
As for the star-crossed lovers, Avigail Harari and Tom Avni are beautiful, young, immature, fresh and natural. Both in their moments of poetic flight and in their down-to-earth scenes they are marvelously human, and the viewer loves them at once.
The final scene, with its problematic “time of death” call, has been solved by the director – and by the two actors – brilliantly, in a way that was also completely new to me. For that alone the play deserves a huge bravo.
Be’er Sheva Theater stages “Romeo and Juliet” on Saturday at 20.30.