Live theatre is back, and a new generation of actors at the Cameri Theatre is kicking up a storm with Ringo, a vivacious musical comedy written by Yaron Edelstein, and directed by Amit Apte. The festive premiere was a trifecta of celebrations, marking the launch of the Cameri Theatre New Generation ensemble, Ringo‘s premiere, and Late Night – when the bar opens up into a chill space with music, so that when you walk out of a play, you can linger, have a drink, and even dance, keeping the energy flowing.
Ringo reflects the mood and present moment of young Israelis, especially the Tel Aviv scene. The Banana Bar with its magenta neon sign “Stop Thinking Start Drinking” is the contemporary neighborhood well, where everyone at some point either works, plays, or cries their heart out. Setting the tone, the play opens with the entire ensemble in a song and dance number: young Israelis ready for life to begin, trying to do everything right – getting their university degree, doing Pilates, wondering what do we lack, what do we need to have/to do in order to have a happy life (ma haser lanu baderech lehaim meusharim)? Another box to tick on the “perfect life” chart is of course, the relationship box, and Danny and Mika appear to have that covered. They’ve been together for two years now, and the auspicious moment has arrived. But just as they are about to celebrate their engagement, Danny discovers that his penis has disappeared. This, as the next song states emphatically, is not a metaphor. Wild, audacious, absurd, fast-paced, clever, and hilarious, Ringo showcases the talents of the versatile new ensemble, while reflecting some of the deeper issues in Israeli culture.
Danny sets off in search of his lost manhood, Mika is left bereft and bewildered, and in the meantime, the errant member, finally free, is pursuing his pleasure gorging on hamburgers and flirting with all the waitresses at the Banana Bar. Yes, Ringo (Danny’s penis) comes to full, glorious life as a character in the play, and is it any surprise that he acts like a real dick? The play follows the trajectories of all three characters – Danny, Mika and Ringo, as well as Naomi, Mika’s close friend and the shift manager at the bar, whose narrative eventually reveals a wacky, yet oddly satisfying twist.
It’s interesting to note that this is not the first Israeli play to revolve around a missing member. Is there something about Israeli culture that prompts this particular phallic preoccupation? Hmmm… let’s leave that for another conversation. In Hanoch Levin’s Ikhsh Fisher,(link to the full review) which premiered at the Cameri Theatre in 2010, directed by Roni Pinkovitch, a similar loss is experienced by the eponymous main character, while performing the same action. This loss too, leads to a search, yet although the central event and the thematic associations it raises (I just couldn’t resist) are similar, inevitably referencing issues of identity, anxiety, masculinity, and men in Israeli culture, the plays are very different. A closer look by theatre scholars would certainly have much to say on the subject, but at a glance, it is immediately apparent that in addition to the individual differences, Ringo reflects changing cultural perspectives on gender identity, gender roles and relationships.
One theme that stands out amidst the laughter, is that of self-awareness and critique on the path to a better self, a better life. It’s very much a contemporary concern and pursuit, and Ringo explores its funny side, as well as the more serious aspect, as Danny tries to understand what happened to him, and, no less important – why. As he searches, the recurring hypothesis, repeated by doctors, police and his friends, is: it must be something about you. In our human pursuit of health and happiness, the current trend is to believe that if we only figure out the right algorithm, follow the correct instructions meticulously, we can achieve perfection. But perhaps ‘how to have a perfect life’ is not the right question?
Ringo‘s credo is “A little less conversation, a little more action, please” and Dor Harari embodies it lustily – double entendre gleefully intended. With his smooth, bald head, bright pink hoodie (Alex Kochman has his finger on the pulse of the Israeli scene – all the costumes are so fun and precise!), and acrobatic, energetic, undulating moves he evokes the physicality and character of a personified penis – primal, impulsive, and igniting corresponding urges in others. Watch for what happens when someone tries to talk to him about relationships – it’s hilarious. Striking a great balance between social/political critique and comic entertainment, there are so many funny moments both visual and verbal, with pointed references to the current Israeli scene – politics, protests and even a gay bartender, portrayed by Elad Atrakchi, playful and precise. One of my favorite dance numbers was in an interlude between Mika and her grandmother (the versatile Yaeli Rozenblit), when Gran, despite being in a wheelchair and hooked up to an IV, gets up to sing about the joys of making mistakes, and dances, flanked by two identically decked out Grandmas – what a funny, fantastic trio! There’s terrific ensemble work by the entire cast, with clever, catchy songs and dance choreography that flow wonderfully with the zany plot.
Future performance dates for Ringo may be found on the Cameri Theatre website.
Ringo by Yaron Edelstein
Directed by Amir Apte
Music: Alon Glazinger; Choreography: Tomer Yifrach; Set: Shiran Levi; Costumes: Alex Kochman; Lighting: Matan Preminger; Voice Guidance: Adi Keshet-Cohen; Sound Design: Nirel Sharon and Alon Berkovich; Dramaturgy: Gur Koren and Amit Apte; Artistic Guidance: Gilad Kimchi, Orna Smorgonsky, and Amir Lackner; Cast: Elad Atrakchi, Tom Gal, Chen Garti, Dor Harari, Tom Chodorov, Uriah Yablonovsky, Or Lumbrozo, Roni Netanel, Maya Koren, Yaeli Rozenblit