My colleague Shaun Raviv writes:
Some observations from seeing the play at Theater J.
On paper, Seven Jewish Children isn't really a play. It's more of a simplistic poem. I haven't read any of her plays since Cloud Nine (not a fan) or seen any other than A Dream Play (she translated it, too dreamy for me). But the staging (by Ari Roth) added surprising depth to the words. He had the actors read the lines as concerned and confused parents. So, the lines:
"Tell her they want to drive us into the sea."
"Tell her we kill far more of them"
"Don't tell her that"
is read as a discussion by two concerned parents, as to how best inform their child of the situation. It seems to me, from the staging, that the parents don't know what is the truth and what part of the real story to tell the child, who they only want to protect. They may be facts in Churchill's mind--I haven't read much on her views--but Ari's staging was a discussion, clearly not a diatribe. In the talk afterward, many members of the audience complained that the play is missing 99% of the story, and only covers one side of the argument. As a writer of several short plays, including one read at Theater J a few years back, I would argue that a ten-minute play is not long enough a form to tell 100% of any story of any size, much less the story of Israel. You can tell a fragment of a bigger story or create a sketch. Churchill's done both, if not successfully, then a bit lazily. Ari Roth, however, has taken her words, however she meant them, and staged them in a very useful, thoughtful way. Even though much of the audience was just there to get a few simplistic words of their own off their chest about how Israel is a demonic state or a model of good, neither of which it is, a more thoughtful audience would gain from Theater J's somewhat risky venture.
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