Washington Post & DC Theatrescene Raves + An Angel Remembers

The reviews are coming in, one more powerful than the next. Peter Marks was to have written a feature on the production (which was to have appeared on Sunday), having interviewed many of the creators of RETURN TO HAIFA and tracked the controversy and struggle to bring it to Washington. But his own rave review may have pre-empted it. We’ll see. Either way, we’ll take the good–hell, the great– and we’re grateful for the passion, insight, and advocacy here, encouraging us–both the theater and the DCJCC that houses and supports this theater–to continue leaning forward into the weightiest issues of our time. Read it here.

* Breaking News: A follow-up feature will appear in the coming days, we are assured–and we remain grateful for the focus on this really important moment, for our theater, for the discourse about Israeli both here and in Israel. Let’s see where the questions lead…

And DC Theatrescene follows up on its informative feature with this terrific review

But just as meaningful, are the highly personal reflections coming in, like this one, from Producing Angel, Dr. Al Munzer. He’s allowed us to share the following:

Dear Ari,

What an evening!
Tonight, 18 Shevat 5771, marks the beginning of the Jahrzeit of my sisters Eva and Leah, killed in Auschwitz February 8, 1944 when they were eight and six. “Return to Haifa” deserves to be celebrated for the political questions it dares to ask. But is the personal tragedy that captivated me. As I listened especially to Saffiyeh but also to Sa’id and Miriam and Efraim, I couldn’t help but think of the number of times, so many years after they were presumed to have been killed, that I wondered whether my sisters might have survived after all, whether like others they might have been adopted and raised by a Christian family. A fantasy, of course, a fantasy so secret I never even dared speak about it with my own mother, but a fantasy and an unending quest shared by millions around the globe whose sister, brother, son or daughter have been swept away by war. It’s the spare portrayal of personal tragedy reminiscent of Greek tragedy that will remain with me for a long time and that makes “Return to Haifa” not just relevant today and to the Middle East but timeless and universal.

Thank you Cameri and thank you Ari and Theater J for an unforgettable and deeply moving theatrical experience. Thank you for allowing Joel and me to be a part of the Theater J family!

Warm regards,
Al Munzer

* * *

And there’s more, thoughtful responses reflecting on what worked and what didn’t connect, from a few of our friends:

Good morning Ari,

I was just involved with Yori as he emailed you his Anna Frank poem.  It left me thinking AGAIN about last night’s performance and the dynamic discussion, headed by Anton Goodman.  I just wanted to add an American perspective.  First of all, on the humor, I didn’t get it at all.  As I heard all of the laughter, I kept saying to myself, “What am I missing?  What are they laughing about?  This is certainly not humorous.”  Of course, a couple of Miriam’s comments and reactions did lend itself to ethnic humor, but that was all.
 
Also, after listening to the final words of the adapter of the novella, I wanted to say that he achieved his mission.  Being Jewish, but not actually emanating from either of the represented groups, I left the play wondering what one would do in such an antagonistic situation, a real “Sophie’s Choice”.  I felt that the play DID, IN FACT, present both sides adequately, and that the adapter’s mission was accomplished.
 
Great theater…on so many levels, not just the religious/political ones.  That’s my American, theater-lover’s input.
Thanks for hearing me out after the fact,
-Sylvia Shenk