Last night, I saw Mortal Folly's production of Over Here at the New York International Fringe Festival. This wonderful play by Meron Langsner only has one more performance, this Sunday at 2:15. If you haven't seen it yet, go! It is not to be missed.
The play starts out like a bad joke: So an Israeli and a Palestinian are working together at a construction site just after 9/11.... Yet from that beginning comes a story that is by turns terrifying, beautiful, and at times very, very funny. (As one character quips, "If we can't joke about deep-seated ethnic hatred, what can we joke about?")
Mohit Gautam plays Issam, a Palestinian-American who grew up in New Jersey and watched the Twin Towers fall. While others want to destroy, he wants to build something, to create something new. But when Issam finds out his cousin was a suicide bomber who killed people in Israel, he finds himself unable to completely condemn a member of his own family who seems to have snapped after years of putting up with oppression.
Naren Weiss plays Gilad, a former Israeli soldier with a Greencard and a study-abroad opportunity at NYU. He is all jokes and laughter, and claims he only took the job so he could get some sun. Yet when Issam asks him if he ever killed anyone in the army, we know the answer without Gilad having to say it. In spite of the confidence he expresses, Gilad is haunted by his own demons.
Rounding out the play is veteran actor Micky Ryan as the racist foreman, who in spite of the obnoxious and offensive things he says, manages to be sympathetic. He helped build the World Trade Center and knew people who died when it was attacked. While the part could come off as a caricature, Ryan makes him all too human for us to hate him, in spite of some of the seemingly unforgivable things he says and does over the course of the play.
Director Katherine Harte-DeCoux's staging is impeccable, aided by projections by OMTA and original music provided by Brook Pridemore. The fight choreography, done by Nathan DeCoux is highly realistic, which makes the sometimes questionable choices made by the characters seem motivated. The sense of fear is palpable, even as the characters strive to find ways to trust and accept one another.
Over Here is playing at 64 E 4 Mainstage. Check it out!