If anyone has the right to comment in a solo show on the tragedy of the conflict between Israeli and Palestinian, it is Iris (ee-reese) Bahr. Her renowned and multiply-awarded performance has a Hebrew name that, not only means “enough” but with cruel irony rhymes with the English word for the fate of the 11 characters she depicts in a Tel Aviv café, moments before a suicide bomber detonates his terminal expression of protest.
Bahr has her feet in the world of both Middle Eastern and American Jewry, as she moved to Israel with her family as a girl of 12, served in the military there and eventually came stateside, studying both Neuropsychiatry and Religious Studies at Brown University. Dai has in its setup a series of interviews with characters and the ironies keep piling upon each other. An actress is going to shoot a movie in Romania about a Palestinian bomber and an Israeli girl he falls in love with, just before he is to blow up a target. The actress has come to Tel Aviv for research, not knowing that her research will come to bear deadly fruit. Director Will Pomerantz has this production punctuate each monologue with a horrendous sounding explosion—each sounding slightly different—and the audience, knowing the fate of these odd characters, feels desperation and tension throughout the performance.
Bahr’s Israeli accent is of course perfectly authentic and it requires great attention on the part of the American attendee to make out all the words at first. But once one is attuned to the dialect, the show totally holds one near the edge of the seat, as we wonder how much personal history we will glean before each sudden demise. And in another irony, it is the American Jewish characters whose Zionism seems the most ardent in this work, bile spilling freely.
Among the wayward souls of Dai, we meet a gay German young man who stalks his former Israeli lover and a female Russian Ph.D. in Physics who hilariously comments on Israeli males, as she now makes a living as a hooker. The more elderly Israeli Uzi tells us that his wife accused him, “You have lost your emotions. I’m tired of looking for them.” Part of the reason for his flat affect is losing one son in armed conflict and learning the other is about to flee to fairly aggressive but admittedly safer confines of New York City.
Bahr has done plenty of TV and standup but this is theatre, raw, deep, conflicted and in the end, astonishing, and it is no surprise that the show was a hit at Edinburgh, off-Broadway and has won the Lucille Lortel Award for Solo Show here, as well as gaining nominations for Drama Desk and UK Stage Awards. Along with the Golden Globe-winning animated feature Waltzing with Bashir, directed by Ari Folman, it would seem Bahr is among the Israeli artists who, while having no simple solution, cannot bear the never-ending cycle that eradicates lives and, upon closer examination, life stories.
Dai (Enough), written and performed by Iris Bahr, The Lillian Theatre, Hollywood. www.plays411.com/dai