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'Monogamy's' strong, silent type

Meital Dohan's has no lines in the indie thriller, but her sexy, mysterious presence helps propel the film and could also help the Israeli-born actress gain further traction in Hollywood.

March 18, 2011|By Rick Rojas, Los Angeles Times
  • Meital Dohan, a successful, actress in Israel, is forging her way into American film with a starring role in "Monogamy."
Meital Dohan, a successful, actress in Israel, is forging her way into American… (Kirk McKoy, Los Amgeles…)

In "Monogamy," Israeli-born actress Meital Dohan receives top billing for a movie in which she doesn't speak and is only referred to as Subgirl, an e-mail handle. All that's seen of her is what's captured through the lens of Theo (Chris Messina), the photographer protagonist, who unwittingly finds himself chasing this sexually adventurous woman.

She is a silent enigma, the one thing standing between an engaged man and monogamy.

"The character is a fantasy," Dohan said, perched on a white sofa in her sunny Los Angeles home. She's wearing leather shorts and has strands of purple and pink weaved into her blond hair. "The beauty of fantasies is they're illusion, and in a way I think what's most interesting about Subgirl is that, obviously, she behaves in a provocative way."

But it also created a challenge: Dohan said she had to figure out "how to attract the audience without putting the emphasis on the provocation or the sexuality of the character, but to try to give it another depth or another mystery that will draw the audience to say, 'What is going on with this woman? Why is she doing it? What is missing in her life?'"

It turns out that the exhibitionist is a suburban mother attempting to flee a rote life — something woefully different from the spontaneity and free-spiritedness that seems to drive the 32-year-old Dohan's medium-hopping and border-crossing career.

Already a popular actress — on screen and on stage — in her native Israel, she's now in the midst of building a career in the United States. She's working on films (including a star turn in a politically based horror movie with Michael Imperioli called "Foreclosure" which premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival next month), has written and starred in theater projects and has an electro-pop album, "I'm in Hate With Love," set to release in April. She hosts a weekly Internet radio show for WomensRadio.com in which she explores miracles and spirituality.

She's also starred in the New York debut of the play "Stitching," a twisted love story by controversial British playwright Anthony Neilson about the games (sexual and otherwise) of a couple so in love they've, literally, driven each other crazy. She starred in a West Coast run and she owns its film rights.

Dohan had no intention of starring in an off-off-Broadway play after she visited the U.S. for a film festival nearly a decade ago. But she agreed, even though she was already the Israeli equivalent of a Broadway star.

She wanted to return to Israel but landed a part in "Weeds" in 2005, playing the executive director of the yeshiva that character Andy Botwin (Justin Kirk) attends when he becomes a rabbi.

Now, the U.S. — and for the last two years, Los Angeles — is her home. She said she's still learning the ropes of American culture.

"The change is pretty significant," Dohan said, with the throaty rasp of Hebrew still in her voice. With the cultural differences, she said, "You pretty much stay aware of it and you feel the differences. I love America…. I believe this is a great country with great opportunities."

rick.rojas@latimes.com

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