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Boos based on Mideast borders

June 26, 2005|Don Shirley

Applause and then loud boos interrupted a monologue in "Stuff Happens" at the Mark Taper Forum on Tuesday.

But the play isn't a 19th century melodrama. It's David Hare's examination of the decisions that led to the war in Iraq.

The speech, spoken by a character who is an unnamed Palestinian woman, draws audible reactions at approximately half the performances -- and the most intense reactions of any scene in the play -- according to the stage manager.

The scene also provoked the most response at the talk-back session after Tuesday's performance. "We've had many comments from people who feel the Israeli point of view is lacking," said Keith Carradine, who plays President Bush.

The woman in the monologue says that "for Palestinians," the invasion of Iraq "is about one thing: defending the interest of America's three-billion-a-year colony in the Middle East," a reference to Israel. She asserts that the U.S. ignores U.N. resolutions about Israel while using U.N. resolutions to justify the Iraq invasion. She concludes that Palestinians are now victims, as Jews were earlier -- "We are the Jews of the Jews."

In an interview after the talk-back session, director Gordon Davidson acknowledged that the scene "troubled me from the beginning. It raises a bunch of questions that don't get answered in the play." He "feels vulnerable" during the scene "because I'm Jewish. I want to get up and say something."

But his feelings "don't necessarily have to be answered in the play," he said. "I can't get a writer to write the play I would write." He added that he wanted a play about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the slot that "Stuff Happens" occupies but didn't find the right one.

Actress Anna Khaja, who plays the Palestinian woman, told the talk-back session that Hare doesn't necessarily agree with her monologue and four others -- all of which interrupt the play's primary narrative. "They're all vying for control of the play."

Actor Brian George, who identified himself as an Israeli-born Jew, said, "The Israeli point of view" toward Iraq is represented in the play, "because it's much the same as the American point of view."

Davidson recalled that the first indication of how controversial the scene would be occurred at the third preview, when boos erupted and Khaja "froze like a deer in the headlights." But then someone in the audience shouted, "It's a play!" -- and the show went on.

Don Shirley

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