Ages-old enemies are given a face, a history and a common humanity in the piercing drama How His Bride Came to Abraham at None Too Fragile Theater in Akron.
Actors Leighann Niles DeLorenzo and Gabriel Riazi bring to life with impassioned intensity the horror, hatred and distrust of Middle East warfare in this two-person play by Karen Sunde. The soulful Riazi is wounded Israeli soldier Abraham, who’s separated from his comrades in a security zone and nursed by an unlikely helper — the fiercely combative Palestinian refugee Sabra, played by DeLorenzo.
This pair sets a ferocious tone from the opening moment they’re seen wrestling on the ground of a sandy, boulder-strewn stage, she wearing a keffiyeh on her head so that at first, Abraham is unaware she’s a young woman. He has been injured by a mine and she treats his wounded foot and feeds him at her makeshift camp.
The story’s only drawback is that if you blink an eye early on, you may miss the specific setting for the story. The play is clearly in a war zone but it’s important to know that Israeli soldier Abraham is patrolling a no-man’s land on the Israeli border with Lebanon.
More than once during this story, Abraham learns that people aren’t necessarily who they seem. He speaks venomously against the Palestinians, calling them “Jew-hating infiltrators’’ but insists he is only trying to keep his people living at the Israeli border safe.
Playwright Sunde’s anti-war play, first performed in 1992 in New Jersey, explores in a highly personal manner how the Israeli/Palestinian struggle haunts the family history of two individuals. The drama was produced off-off-Broadway in 2003 and received its official premiere in 2004 in Kansas City.
The story shifts into a modern-day Romeo and Juliet story as these young adults, divided by ethnic hatred, slowly open up to each other. DeLorenzo’s displaced Sabra doesn’t reveal until much later her true reason for crossing the border: a deep, all-consuming yearning in her soul to reach her home.
The tension is so thick during this intimate performance, you’re afraid to move a muscle or breathe too loudly in None Too Fragile’s tiny black box theater. The 90-minute show plays with no intermission.
Kudos go to both DeLorenzo and Riazi, directed by Sean Derry, as they pour their all into both their characters’ ferocious fighting and their realistic lovemaking.
DeLorenzo has us on the edge of our seats as Sabra tells of her painful family history, dominated by a graphic story of a massacre.
She also corrects Abraham’s perception of suicide bombers, crying: “It’s not heaven they want. You took their land!”
Perspectives shift dramatically as understanding grows, and the well-meaning Abraham attempts to offer the realist Sabra hope in a drama that, at key moments, rises above a dark and disturbing anti-war play.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.