An Immunization Against Grand Theater

After the deluge of performances geared for children during Passover, it is pleasant to recall one modest production - the Jerusalem Theater's "A Journey Backstage" ("Masa Ben Haklaim") - which teaches more about theater than many of the productions that call themselves plays. It is particularly worth taking children under the age of six, as a kind of immunization against the grandiose shows they have yet to see. Children who are a bit older, and have perhaps already seen a few plays, will also enjoy the journey and the surprises that await them upon successfully reaching its end.

"A Journey Backstage" is a new project, which takes advantage of the Jerusalem Theater's impressive space. As its name implies, children tour the innards of the theater, in areas where theatergoers don't usually roam: backstage, onstage, the corridors almost as narrow as a person's hips and the actors' dressing rooms. All of this occurs under the guidance of two talented actors, Hamutal Endi and Daniel Kishinovski, who play a variety of characters as they lead the children along.

At the start of the performance, 15 children and accompanying adults gather in the theater lobby. Little daylight penetrates the Gothic looking building, which also includes a restaurant and book store. As the children tilt their heads back to look at the high ceilings and the stairs covered in red carpeting, the figure of a woman, who until then had been still and whose presence had not been felt, as though she were part of the wall, begins to move toward them and invites them in.

From somewhere, Bob also appears - a nervous and anxious director who has to put on a premiere. His leading actress, who is to play the princess, has yet to show up. An actress with curly hair, named Michal, joins us from behind and offers herself for the role. But everyone can see she isn't right for it.

This is the beginning of the journey that is supposed to teach Michal how to become a real actress. Following behind her, we arrive at a small hall where she meets an acting teacher named Moliere, who is charming and French, all the way to the tips of his mustache. She creates a nice dialogue with a pantomime artist on the screen behind Moliere; later she meets with a voice teacher, on whose dress is a pattern of piano keys; and finally, she happens upon a scatterbrained Russian dresser named Olga.

All of these characters are performed amiably and charmingly by Kishinovski, who manages to elicit more than one smile from the grown-ups. At the end of the tour, we burrow through the narrow, winding corridors that seem to arrive backstage like underground tunnels. With its height, huge machinery and ladders, backstage is certainly impressive - more so than any stage covered in smoke or a rotating set. Following that, with Michal's help, we learn to imagine the palace without a backdrop by means of playing with light and musical effects, until we reach the happy ending: Michal becomes a princess in her own way, without being too saccharinely sweet, and joins her prince.

"A Journey Backstage" will be performed at the Jerusalem Theater on April 23.