This review is totally off base. Did Lysandra even watch the same play I did? The characters are under Israeli military curfew for 2/3rds of the play, to the point where they’re running out of food. They’re down to the last ten bottles of the family olive oil after their land was confiscated and their trees destroyed–a fact that, it’s made abundantly clear, contributed to the father’s mental deterioration. The younger sister’s fiance is missing for half the play and sneaks back to Bethlehem at night, dodging snipers. They even explain the carve-up of the West Bank using hummus. But I guess that wasn’t obvious enough for this reviewer.
The occupation is everywhere in this play–all the more impressive given that it takes place on a single (beautifully realized) set depicting the interior of a home. I read this as not just a logistical choice, but also a political one. You can’t escape the occupation–politics will follow you into your home whether you like it or not.
Just as in the real world, the characters deal with the stress of living under occupation through a series of coping mechanism. One is humor. Another is trying to live a normal life despite crazy circumstances. Anyone who’s spent time in Palestine or other sites of war and occupation will recognize these tools.
Many of the themes of the play are familiar and, yes, universal. Because, guess what, Palestinians are people. Taking care of family versus following your dreams; lost love and relationship regrets; the immigrant’s dilemma of staying in a beloved homeland or traveling far away in the hope of more opportunities: all these themes are there. And they’re all the more heightened and fraught because of the specific circumstances of Palestine.
This play does what all good drama is supposed to do–find the universal in the specific. It’s also a highly successful piece of political drama. The politics are absolutely clear, and they’re not in the background at all–they’re interwoven into the characters’ lives and struggles. That’s what makes us care about political issues–seeing how they affect ordinary people who are just like us.
And as for New Yorkers’ “ingrained bias toward Israel,” all I’ll say is maybe Lysandra needs to start hanging out in a different part of town.