My Father is Not a Bird – Israel Festival 2011

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Maayan Weinstock in My Father is Not a Bird - Israel Festival 2011/Photo: Nadav Aharonovich

My Father is Not a Bird is a magical experience, exploring the mysteries of human hopes, dreams and pain with heart-wrenching precision and beauty, performed by an excellent ensemble cast. Shir Goldberg and Shahar Pinkas’ adaptation of The Cinnamon Shops by Bruno Schulz (1892 – 1942) translates the poetry of the novel to the stage with a sensitive and artistically complex interpretation that speaks through diverse media: costume and set design, movement, music, puppets, and text. Premiering at the Israel Festival 2011 as part of the “Premiere in the Ulpan” program, the play sits wonderfully in the black box of the studio, floating like the colorful vision of a dream.

Set in Poland during the years between the two World Wars, the play depicts a group of people thrown together by circumstance and financial constraint, trying to make ends meet and keep it together from one day to the next. In a reality to harsh to endure, the imagination takes flight, but the wings of fantasy are ephemeral. The Gottesman family owns a fabric store but must rent out rooms to supplement their income. Henya (Dina Blei-Schor) the harried mother works in the store while her husband Yakov (Nevo Kimchi) tends the eggs of rare birds in the attic and their son Yossi (Maayan Weinstock) tries to make sense of it all as best he can. Their lives are intertwined with their tenants – old Maryushka (a puppet beautifully conveyed by a scarf-covered wrinkled head, a wizened hand and the graceful movement of Ofer Amram), Kochava (Tracy Abramovici) searching for her lost husband Moishe who disappeared one day in the rooms of the house, and Adela (Natalie Fainstain) the housemaid who dreams of America while her would-be beau the neighborhood policeman (Ofer Amram) is ever in attendance.

The play begins with a sense of wonder. The town and people are one as the actors wear miniature houses on their backs, the small windows lit from within. A street lamp hovers above and Yakov peeks over the houses, searching for something in the distance visible to his eyes alone. Reality intrudes in the form of a struggle between mother and son, as Henia forces Yossi to say: “My father is not a bird.” The events unfold from the perspective of a child, Yossi, and there is much that appears magical and mysterious.

Pared down to the essentials, delicate touches evoke the period and characters. The costumes have a wonderfully warm yet subdued palette of green, orange and brown with some prints; hitting just the right notes with the white net hat and fur collar worn by a customer in the fabric store, and Henia’s habit of storing money in her stockings. The text makes creative use of language, scenes of dialogue interspersed with narration or direct addresses to the audience, sometimes with characters alternating narration of the same scene, editing each other’s version of the story.

The different layers of fictions and lies generated by the different characters play with the borderline between what is permissible and pragmatic and what is prohibited and psychotic. People mysteriously disappear, and appear once more – like Kochava’s husband, Moishe. Objects disappear – a stamp collection, the maid’s undergarments, a letter from America. The endeavor to keep up appearances becomes too much for Henia as Yakov descends further into his own world. The members of the household become entangled in the fictions they have woven, until it all unravels and the feathers fly.

The Cameri Theatre will be hosting the play for two performances: May 1 & 2 at 21:00 in Cameri Theatre 4. To reserve tickets, call: 03-6060960.

My Father is Not a Bird, adapted The Cinnamon Shops by Bruno Schulz
By Shir Goldberg and Shahar Pinkas
Written by Shahar Pinkas and directed by Shir Goldberg
Costume design: Maor Zabar
Set design: Avi Sechvi
Music: Daniel Salomon
Lighting design: Tamar Orr
Puppet design: Amira Pinkas
Actors: Nevo Kimchi, Dina Blei-Schor, Tracy Abramovici, Ofer Amram, Maayan Weinstock, Natalie Fainstein, Shai Zabib
With the support of the Polish Institute

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