Playing with Fire – Beer Sheva Fringe Theatre
Written by: Ayelet Dekel
Rock operas are hyperbole incarnate, calling up images of large-scale mega-productions, the emphasis heavy on elaborate sets and costumes; light on the narrative and acting. What happens when a fringe -theatre group based in the Israeli cultural frontier town Beer Sheva puts on a rock opera? Something different, something fun: Playing with Fire, by Shai Lahav (journalist and playwright) and Shai Lahav (musician – Dr. Kasper’s Rabbit Show), directed by Yoav Michaeli.
Taking a familiar theme – a 39 year old man, married with the prerequisite two kids and mid-life angst, and giving it a jolt of electricity with songs by Lahav & Lahav the Beer Sheva Fringe Theatre has a hit show with music that makes me want to get up out of my seat and dance.
Where most rock operas are over-the-top, Playing with Fire, perhaps by virtue of fringe exigencies, exercises restraint, with exceedingly simple yet effective set and costumes, putting the emphasis on words, movement and music. It’s not a musical (the actors don’t sing); it’s very much a rock concert. The band – Shai Lahav vocals & keyboards, Ifat Noah Lahav “Libra” vocals & percussion, Ariel Poliakov guitar, Yubi Haibi drums – performs live onstage, giving a stylized, edgy feel to the performance.
Just about everything that can be said about mid-life ennui has already been said, and Lahav wisely avoids clichés and profound statements, choosing instead to tell a personal story with quirky nuances and spot-on dialogue. Every marriage has two separate tracks playing simultaneously: “he said/she said.” In this rock duet, Lahav resisted the temptation to create cardboard caricatures; every moment rang true to my ear. No one comes out a hero or a victim in this story of a marriage in crisis; and there is nothing obvious or too neatly sweet about the conclusion.
The music ROCKS, and merges so well with the story, giving a stream of consciousness flow to the whole experience.
Niso Ka’avia and Tzahala Michaeli are funny and appealing as the couple in question, Ka’avia inviting equal measures of empathy and “what was he thinking?” in his meanderings, Michaeli deftly deals with the challenge of portraying the wife, traditionally burdened in these stories with the rather dull “voice of reason,” imbuing her with life and warmth. Ifat Noah Lahav is aptly sleazy and seductive as Plilit (Hebrew: criminal) – the other woman.
Playing with Fire by Shai Lahav; Music and Musical direction: Shai Lahav; Directed by Yoav Michaeli; Set design: Avi Shichvi; Lighting design: Ori Morag; Choreography: Ifar Noah Lahav; Video-art: Ram Gil; Costume design: Uzi Amrani; Cast: Niso Ka’avia, Tzahala Michaeli; Band: Shai Lahav vocals & keyboards, Ifat Noah Lahav “Libra” vocals & percussion, Ariel Poliakov guitar, Yubi Haibi drums.