Billed as "the first Israeli play to deal with the Intifada," Masked Men, opens at Off-Off-Broadway's La MaMa E.T.C. Oct. 31 and runs there to Nov. 10. The play, by Ilan Hatsor, won first prize in Israel's Akco Fringe Festival in 1990.
Three Palestinian brothers are torn apart by conflicting loyalties and "the impossibility of honorable existence under the occupation." The eldest brother collaborates with the Israeli secret service, the middle sibling is a militant Palestinian radical, and the youngest gets caught in the middle. Hatsor calls the psychological drama an attempt to understand "the other side." For him, theatre must journey into the strange, foreign and monstrous -- in other words, the enemy, "a person with desires and inhibitions that the stage can understand and discover."
In explaining his decision to write about Israel's Arab world, Hatsor pointed out that the world's first extant drama was Aeschylus' The Persians, which used theatre to describe the pain of losing an enemy. "It was clear to me," Hatsor noted, "that the characters in my play would be Arabs with no Jew. I wanted to make an effort to look through their eyes. Almost everybody has a family and brothers, so it was obvious for me to deal with...three brothers. I tried to push away politics and concentrate on the human situation. Politics would always be in the background, so it's unnecessary to talk about it."
Masked Men was Hatsor's first play, written when he was 26. It played for three seasons at Tel Aviv's Cameri Theatre, and has been produced throughout Europe. Translated into English by Miriam Schlessiner, Michael Taub and Kira Goldstein, the drama is directed by Victor Attar and Geula Jeffet Attar, and performed by Victor Attar, Ernest Abuba and Hossein Fassa. Later Hatsor plays include The State Controller and the satire, Hay-Rimona.
For tickets ($12) and information on Masked Men -- which is designed by Gabriella Simon and features music by Tim Schellenbaum - call (212) 475-7710. -- By David Lefkowitz