This may not be a conversation, but it is a huge amount of words; some of them in Hebrew and Arabic which is incomprehensible to most of the audience. There are plenty of non-verbal statements, too, which comprise an international language. All in all a rather intense 70 minutes of drama.
The play was created by three people – two of whom are the actors, the other being the director. Dima Alansari and Itai Erdal portray the Palestinian woman and the Israeli man. They both live in Canada, but have plenty to say to each other about how they feel and think regarding their native countries. He has been a soldier in the Israeli army; she has never been stopped at a middle-eastern checkpoint. They stage a possible scenario where he holds an assault rifle and she drives a car. There are questions, some of which seem irrelevant, but which nonetheless must be answered.
There is a suitcase and a duffle bag, both of which spend most of the play tucked away, until near the end where they are brought out and the contents displayed in a powerful way.
Jerusalem has always been a city important to both Jews and Palestinians, which contains sites of historical and religious importance to each race; there is a lot of jostling for ownership. Jews are building houses, apartments, settlements, towns on Palestinian land; there is competition for territory. Who colonizes who, and where? Why is the United States interested? Are we are back to the blood for oil debate?
These two people on stage are arguing about every facet of life in the Middle East, and about why they now live here in Canada rather than over there amid the conflict. They are very different people with polarized points of view. And yet there is an attraction between them, a magnetism which draws them together and forces them apart. The skill of the two actors keeps this in balance, with the thrust and parry of a fencing match. It is fascinating to watch.
It could well be that ethnic strife will never be resolved by the politicians, nor even the Gods of each people. But it might just be the writers and the actors who bring such opposites together and get them sorted out.
This is Not a Conversation is part of the Spark Festival at the Belfry, Studio A until March 18. For tickets call 250-385-6815.