Incubator Theatre: The City
Written by: Ayelet Dekel
The intrepid team of the Victor Jackson Show and the Incubator Theatre have confronted danger head-on and prevailed! In The City, The Victor Jackson Show perform an impressive death-defying balancing act, creating a pastiche of noir fiction with verisimilitude and self-mocking panache.Not only have they taken The City, a Hebrew language hip hop noir cult hit, and translated it into English, but are performing it before the most critical audience of all – on home turf, before Israeli audiences, many of whom are secretly bi-lingual, and can compare the two versions. Following covert surveillance of the February 14th premiere, the conclusion (as confirmed by the thundering applause) is evident: The City is exhilarating fun, wickedly clever, and tremendously entertaining!
Riffing on the tropes of noir and detective novels, The City delivers its narrative through the rhymes and rhythms of hip hop. Live music is an integral part of the show, with Omer Mor (aka Itzik Patzatzy) on guitar, vocal percussion, beat box and general awesomeness. Joe (Amit Ulman) is a world-weary detective, à la Sam Spade, Mike Hammer, and countless other hard-boiled icons. Ulman’s deep voice gives Joe’s character that tough guy appeal as hat slung low over his eyes, feet on his desk, and cynicism in his heart, the stage is set for trouble. Cue the femme fatale trope, and Sarah Bennett (Dorit Lilien) walks in out of the rain: “I knew right from the start this one was no good.”
The City also features the loyal yet argumentative sidekick, tough cop, underworld underlings, chatty newsboy, and of course, Sarah sings in a nightclub. The dialogue is fast, studded with cultural references and irreverent verbal wit, with some actors performing multiple roles. Watching The City is a form of mental aerobics, viewers have to work hard to keep up with the pace, and it’s totally worth it.
A large part of The City‘s seductive charm in the original may be attributed to the references to Israeli culture embedded in the fast-paced rhymes and beats of the Hebrew version. How does all this translate? Remarkably well. Full and proper disclosure, I had not seen the Hebrew version of the show, but was equipped with a bilingual companion who had done so. The writers/translators have done an excellent job with this, it bears none of the tell-tale signs of translation, but rather has the flow and feel of a show written in English. As it ought. The performers have good accents in English, and for the most part, their diction is good enough to enable the active listener to catch the fast-flying jokes (although for the record, I tend to think that most actors should work on their voice, which, like any instrument, requires practice, practice, practice). Anyone familiar with contemporary culture should be able to identify and enjoy most of their references, as in one scene in which the dialogue is entirely constructed of references to popular songs, from George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps, to Elton John’s Candle in the Wind, and the more au courant, Rihanna’s Diamonds.
Like many mysteries, this one has a notorious arch-criminal, whose true identity is unknown, referred to as “Steve.” One of my favorite sequences reviews his life story in tall-tale hyperbole, ascribing a variety of historical heinous acts to Steve, from the Kennedy assassination to Miley Cyrus’s makeover. It is this merging of genres and references – murder and maquillage, sinister and silly, that makes the show work so well. There are several nice twists and surprises along the way to solving this mystery, yet most fun of all is the experience itself.
The City was written by the members of The Victor Jackson Show (Amit Ulman, Omer Havron and Omer Mor). Director: Amit Ulman; Music: Omer Mor; Performers: Amit Ulman, Omer Havron, Omer Mor, Dorit Lilien, Roni Rocket.
The Incubator Theatre, Beit Mazia, 18 Messilat Yesharim, Jerusalem
English – Monday, March 20, 2017 at 20:30
Hebrew – Saturday, March 4, 2017, at 21:00
Tickets are 90 NIS/Discount (students/soldiers/seniors) 70 NIS, and may be ordered online www.eventim.co.il, or call *9066
Tzavta, Tel Aviv – Tuesday, March 7, 2017 at 21:00
Tickets are 125 NIS/Discount (students/soldiers/seniors) 90 NIS, and may be ordered online www.eventim.co.il, or call *9066, or call Tzavta box office 03-6950156/7
Haifa, Beat Club
Thursday, March 9, 2017 at 21:30