Where 'Normality' and Madness Are Two Sides of One Coin

Edna Mazya's Cameri production of 'Lovesick on Nana Street' sets itself apart from Savi Gabizon's acclaimed 1995 film, thanks largely to Shalom Michaelshvili's performance in the lead role.

Michael Handelzalts
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Shalom Michaelshvili and Ola Shor-Selekter in 'Lovesick on Nana Street.' Crazy times.
Shalom Michaelshvili and Ola Shor-Selekter in 'Lovesick on Nana Street.' Crazy times.Credit: Gerard Allon
Michael Handelzalts

“O, what a noble mind
is here o’erthrown!,”
exclaims Ophelia about Hamlet, who made her believe he loved her, after the monologue in which he ponders “to be or not to be,” pretends to be mad, sends her to a convent and she loses her mind. In Savi Gabizon’s play “Lovesick on Nana Street,” the tale of Victor – who runs a pirate cable TV station, is determined to convince Michaela that he loves her and goes out of his mind – is a 
vision of a not-very-noble mind being overthrown.

The most important thing to say about Edna Mazya’s Cameri Theater production, based on Gabizon’s screenplay, is that it succeeds in creating a convincing, moving and sad presence all of its own, without being overshadowed by Gabizon’s successful 1995 film and the iconic central character played by Moshe Ivgy.

This is largely due to the stage presence of Shalom Michaelshvili’s Victor. With a stubborn and unself-aware forlornness, he tries to 
subordinate the not-so-noble environment in which he lives (the Israeli periphery of Haifa Bay’s “amulet-kissers,” before it became completely defiled by identity politics) to his obsessive love for Michaela (Dana Meinrath), the blonde, big-city girl.

Michaelshvili’s achievement here (and much credit must go also to the director, Mazya) isn’t just that he’s created a character with whom one can identify without making comparisons to Ivgy, but that he’s done so given his meager stage experience (his background is more in the movies). He doesn’t overplay; he does just enough, and projects a lot. He seems a complete natural. Ultimately, your heart is with him despite his madness – and not just out of compassion for the wretched.

Clever and 
poetic staging

Sasha Lisiansky came up with the very functional and drab – just like life itself – stage design, which solves the issue of the numerous locations, and also allows for some clever and poetic staging (a large moon-like circle in the background also serves as the screen on which Victor’s cable TV station is being projected and acts as a kind of “Big Brother” for the neighborhood). Nimrod Zin’s video footage works very well; the music by Yoram Hazan and Ami Reiss (from the rock band Knesiyat Hasechel) bridges between 1995 and today, and between Kiryat Yam Gimel and Tel Aviv; and there’s beautiful lighting by Nadav Barnea (including an image of rain that’s a nod to “Singin’ in the Rain”).

Aside from the three leads (Michaelshvili, Meinrath and Ola Shor Selekter as Levana), 11 other actors play a number of roles. Ezra Dagan is excellent, of course, and contributes a charming article in the program about small roles – something he knows a lot about, as are the rest, especially Yoav Levy and Kobi Faraj. A minor problem comes from the casting of one actor, Asaf Solomon, in two roles (Gadi and Dr. Levy). Although Solomon does a good job in both, these roles are too important to have been assigned to the same actor.

Selekter is terrific as Levana, whose character plays an important role in the story as a statement about the combination of misery, madness and violence – which could also be interpreted as a reflection of where Israel seems to be headed on the international stage, with its determined attempt to assert its victimhood madness and make the world accept and surrender to it.

On stage, the walls of the “normal” world turn on an axis to become the walls of a mental hospital, where – despite the happy-ending tone – this story concludes.