“Games in the Backyard” – Reading #2 in our VOICES Festival

Last night saw our second staged reading of the Voices from a Changing Middle East Festival: Edna Mazya’s explosive play, GAMES IN THE BACKYARD. Billed as “one of Israel’s most produced plays, this dynamic courtoom/kibbutz backyard drama examines teen violence, sexual assault, and a country’s determination to examine and heal itself.” Of the 75 ticket-holders in attendance was Elaine Reuben, Theater J Council member and an active part of our readers committee that helped make the decision to include this play in the festival. Here’s her take on the experience last night. We’re eager to hear others too!

Last night was cold and dank: did I really want to go out for a reading of Games in the Backyard, which I knew could be a tough-to-take hour or so, based on a famous Israeli trial of four boys for the rape of a younger girl?

I guess I did, and I’m glad I did, both for the drama itself and for the rest of the evening.

The evening’s audience was small(ish), far less than half the capacity of the theater, but one could assume that anyone there wanted to be: the mood was casual, friendly, interested. The five actors and their narrator were not Theater J regulars, which allowed us to see them in character without echoes or shadows of previous performances. Their director [Rahaleh Nasri] provided them with effective stage movement and interactions, even as they were (after only a few hours with the play) still on book — and who expected the sound design? [from the talented Elisheba Itoop]

In discussion later, Ari reminded how much more we might even have felt with a full production, but this presentation affirmed that chamber presentations, emphasizing the text, are often welcome and appropriate: maybe an older generation’s literary version of the younger’s visual preference?

In any case, there was more than enough feeling and a number of questions evoked by the play for an engaged and thoughtful discussion after among audience, all the actors, the director and others from the theater. That there were Israelis or those with firsthand Israeli experience among us enriched the conversation, and perhaps that the audiencewas small allowed for all to feel connected in what was more conversation than Q & A,
with some exchanges continuing after the evening had adjourned.

There are hints that the play will return to Theater J sometime in the future — so, looking forward.

Elaine