Paradox has a premise designed to tickle the fancy of the extravagantly educated and perpetually inquisitive:

Yonat, an eager yet inexperienced doctoral candidate is a last minute replacement for the illustrious Professor of Philosophy Reuven Nimrodi, who is already Harvard bound without a word of farewell having received an academic offer he could not refuse. It’s the neurotic research assistant’s first time, and over the course of this comic thriller, she will attempt to teach a class on Post-Modernism. Sound funny and strange? Yes, it is, and delightfully so, at least at times.

Nitzan Keren as Yonat in Paradox
Nitzan Keren as Yonat in Paradox

Yonat (Nitzan Keren) is wonderfully restrained, contained and repressed, from her pulled back hair and buttoned down dowdy chic, to the organized severity of her desk (kudos to Ohad Guterman for set design & Galit Bechor on costumes). She strikes precisely the right note of vast knowledge accompanied by incomplete understanding and apparently infinite insecurity. She tries so hard to be prepared for everything, with a multitude of supplies and detailed lesson plan, that she engages one’s empathy and ridicule in equal measure.

Theory makes an amusing target, and Paradox does not miss. Yonat reads from Derrida’s Des Tours de Babel, reassuring the students: “Don’t expect to understand this on the first reading, or the second,” and after just the right comic interval, “or the third.” To make deconstruction more user-friendly, she has invited a guest to the classroom, a rather surprising guest, given Yonat’s pristine appearance: a hooker.

What comes next shall not be discussed, as it would involve considerable spoilers. I will say that Plutarch’s Ship of Theseus paradox is given very lively treatment, and Efrat Arnon is quite versatile and very funny.  Stark captures the nuances of the Israeli social order and their expression in image, movement and language, in a manner both funny and thought-provoking.

I would have been very glad to say how much I enjoyed this comic play for its originality and inventiveness, but that is only true up to a point. At a certain juncture, Stark chooses to take her characters down a road that is all too well traveled, and it is not the denouement I would have wanted to see here. Stark created several quirky characters, and then boxed them in with an all too predictable story line. I wonder what would have happened had she let them run free?

Written and directed by Sharon Stark; performers: Nitzan Keren, Efrat Arnon; set design: Ohad Guterman; lighting: Amir Kastro; sound track design: Itamar Tsur; costumes: Galit Bechor.

Paradox is performed at Tmuna Theatre, consult the website for future dates.