Nissan Nativ Studio Jerusalem 3rd year acting students presented a colorful and engaging performance of Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Person of Szechwan translated into Hebrew by Shimon Zendback and directed by Shir Goldberg. The look of the production – set design and costumes by Natasha Tuchman Polyak and melodramatic make-up, with lighting by Martin Adin, complemented by Daniel Salomon’s music, gave period touches with a sense of the bizarre excellently suited to Goldberg’s dynamic direction, integrating movement into the text with the cast onstage throughout, living their rough lives, embraced a circus-like Brechtian spirit with a contemporary feel.
It’s easy to identify with the difficulty the three “gods” encounter in finding good people. A lively cast of characters, with the prostitute turned shop-keeper Shen Te at the center, offer multiple perspectives both comic and poignant on the struggles to be “a good person” while surviving under harsh circumstances. Goldberg uses simple, yet creative, means and movement integrated beautifully into the dialogue, to present an entertaining and moving play. While the cast members are actors-in-progress, still honing their craft, the quality of the performance is high, very enjoyable and recommended.
Josef Albalak portrays the water seller/narrator with heart-rending sensitivity and an endearing lightness in his every gesture and nuance; a street scamp trying to get by like everyone else, endowed with a mysterious communication with the “gods” – a burden and a gift. Albalak gives a wonderful performance.
The question of “goodness” raised in Brecht’s play is timeless. Watching the play one realizes that the issue of gender roles in relation to power and perceived interpretation of what it means to be “good” is all too contemporary as well, and worth consideration. Sivan Ben Yishaiah handled the challenging transitions with restraint and finesse.