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Radio Review

'Via' Offers Unique Tour of Holy Land

July 06, 1999|DON SHIRLEY | TIMES THEATER WRITER

A BBC production of "Via Dolorosa," David Hare's acclaimed monologue about his trips to Israel and Palestinian occupied territories, arrives on KCRW-FM (89.9) today. Radio may well be the script's natural home.

After listening to the tape and without having seen Hare's performance of his own material in London or on Broadway, one is left wondering if anyone would have paid Broadway ticket prices to see "Via Dolorosa" if they had known it would be on the radio.

Hare has an expressive voice, but he is not a trained actor, and it might be easier to conjure up your own mental images of the people he quotes than it would be if you were distracted by the sight of Hare himself. The only thing missing from the script, as it will be heard on KCRW, is a generous sprinkling of the famous f-word, which will be bleeped in order to abide by Federal Communications Commission regulations.

The script is a piece of journalism, albeit with a great deal of personal perspective, instead of the play that you might expect from Hare ("Plenty," "Racing Demon," "Skylight," among others). After a preface in which Hare briefly discusses that distinction, he relates his encounters with a wide variety of Israelis and Palestinians.

He makes no attempt to conceal his own views, but they are so moderate that he stays within the realm of reporting, as opposed to pontificating. Given the potential controversy, he's probably going to offend people anyway, but he certainly gives the historical roots of both sides their due. His position doesn't sound radically different from that of the new Israeli government--he's a pessimist, but he still believes in the peace process. The text, however, was not updated with any references to the recent election.

For the record, L.A.-based solo performer Steve Greenstein recently sued the Royal Court Theatre, where "Via Dolorosa" was developed, charging that "central ideas, elements and structure" were taken from Greenstein's "Voices From the Holy . . . and Not So Holy Land" after Greenstein submitted a copy of his piece to the theater. The theater denied the charge. Greenstein did not sue Hare, and most of Hare's observations sound directly rooted in his personal experiences.

* "Via Dolorosa" can be heard at 1 and 7 p.m. today on KCRW-FM (89.9), and again Sunday at 6 p.m.

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