Cameri Theatre: Mickey Saves the Day

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Mickey Saves the Day – Cameri Theatre/Photo: Kfir Bolotin

The Cameri Theatre production of Mickey Saves the Day, written by Yaron Edelstein and directed by Amit Apte – the creative team behind the wonderfully wacky and incisive Ringo, is a science fiction comedy that transcends the genre, with a twist that pierces the heart. The play is centered on a pivotal moment in Israeli history, the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the 5th prime minister of Israel, on November 5, 1995. The shocking event reflected the growing rift between left and right, a wound which continues to bleed to this day. In the vein of speculative fiction, the play asks “What if?” – what if somehow, the assassination could have been prevented?

Fast paced with clever dialogue and often broad humor, the play opens as a satirical take on the genre, with a meeting of the Israeli ISA (Internal Security Agency – Shabak). The participants are all in dark suits, referred to only by their first initial. All but one are men, and the exception (Yael Rozenblit) speaks in a deep, gruff, voice, just like one of the guys. As is appropriate for 2024, there is an ambiance of deniable sexism. The Director of the ISA (Tom Chodorov) is looking for a volunteer for a dangerous mission. The brilliant scientist Dr. Stresovits (Maya Koren) has invented a time machine, and the intended mission is to prevent the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. No one wants to step up, but then Mickey (Uriah Jablonowsky), sincerely devoted to his country and people, volunteers.

In the time-honored tradition of time travel tales, he is directed to strictly follow orders and avoid changing any other aspect of the past. As is traditional, things go wrong. Mickey’s best friend Guli (Dolev Ohana), who is also an ISA agent, ends up going back to the mid-nineties with him. To complicate things even further, with a nod to Back to the Future (1985), Mickey encounters his parents at a crucial juncture in their lives. The political is ever tangled with the personal, and Mickey’s relationship with his extremely acrimoniously divorced parents is a significant secondary theme within the play. Mickey’s elegant mother (Roni Natanel) in minimalist gray, black, and white could not be more different from his laid-back father Aryeh (Tom Gal) in shorts and flip flops, with his belly poking out of his flannel shirt. Here, and elsewhere, Costume Designer Roei Akav has done an excellent job of expressing character and the era through fashions. Mickey is literally caught in the middle of his parents’ endless battles, the staging here in a present-day scene, with the mother and Aryeh each in their own home, each vilifying the other from opposite sides of the stage, is sharp and effective. Imagine Mickey’s surprise when he and Guli rent a room in an apartment and discover that one of the roommates is Mickey’s mother! Now Mickey has a mission, and a dilemma.

Mickey and Guli’s adventures in 1995 are hilarious, as is his cover-story, which is a play on the Hebrew title of the play. The word “matzil” in Hebrew means “to save” but it is also the word for “lifeguard”. When he’s interviewed as a potential roommate, Mickey improvises and says that he is a lifeguard from Eilat who has come to experience the big city. The 90s outfits will make some of the older people in the audience cringe in recognition, and the soundtrack is terrific. Guli, equipped with his knowledge of the future, has a predictably great time in the past, after all, he’s just along for the ride. A wanna-be musician, Guli wows the crowd by playing present-day hits that in 1995 have yet to be written. A passing acquaintance with Israeli pop will enhance but is not necessary to enjoy this recurring joke. Tel Aviv rental prices also make their inevitable appearance, as does that new-fangled technological wonder – caller ID. Free-spirited Noy Noy (Roni Natanel) is practically unrecognizable as Mickey’s tightly wound mother, and the romance with Aryeh seems perfect. Is it any wonder that Mickey is tempted to make sure it stays that way?

Sharing the space is another musical reference, Eviatar, the younger brother of popular singer-songwriter the late Meir Banai. He wants to make music too, but no one seems interested in listening, certainly not their soon-to-depart apartment mate, Nati (Yael Rozenblit), an aspiring actor. It’s very Tel Aviv, very nineties, everyone is an aspiring something, there’s love in the air (requited and not), sex, and lots of fun and laughter. So much fun, that Mickey’s central mission, and its more somber overtones almost disappears in the laughter. This meandering into love triangles and general silliness is a brilliant move, lulling the audience into thinking that they’re watching a funny play about time travel. Which this is, yet it is also more.

Mickey Saves the Day – Cameri Theatre/Photo: Kfir Bolotin

Mickey’s conversations with Nati reveal more of his inner thoughts, feelings, and motivations. Yael Rozenblit is such a powerful actor, she brings so much warmth and intelligence to her portrayal of Nati, and in these conversations Jablonowsky reveals the more tender aspects of Mickey’s personality, as well as the fire within that motivates him. In some ways, Mickey and Nati save each other. Yet the most poignant scene belongs to Yitzhak Hizkiya, who delivers a deeply moving performance as Yitzhak Rabin, as he shares a cigarette and some words of wisdom with Mickey at the Peace Rally. The two meet on the stairs leading to the balcony where Rabin was to give his speech, overlooking what is now Rabin Square, and at the time was known as Malkey Israel (Kings of Israel) Square. The set design here is very effective in transporting the viewer back to those crucial moments in November 1995, with evocative posters and the slogan: Yes to Peace/No to Violence.

The play’s final act is immensely powerful. Mickey Saves the Day is thought-provoking and challenging as well as terrific fun, its courageous social critique enfolded within comic brilliance, and the outstanding performance of an ensemble cast.

Mickey Saves the Day

By Yaron Edelstein

Director: Amit Apte; Stage Design: Behrendt Shimony; Costume Design: Roei Akav; Music: Tomer Katz; Video: Sivan Presler, Nitai Shalem; Lighting Design: Yair Segal; Choreography: Tomer Yifrach; Dramaturgy: Gur Koren, Amit Apte; Assistant Director: Lior Shapira; Musical Arrangement Advisor: Roy Yarkoni; Artistic Advisors: Eran Atzmon, Orna Smorgonski, Gilad Kimchi; Producer: Adi Polyak; Cast: Lidor Admoni – Yigal Amir, Agent S, McDavid cashier; Dolev Ohana – Guli; Tom Gal – Aryeh; Tom Chodorov – Director of the ISA, Eviatar Banai; Uriah Jablonowsky – Mickey; Roni Natanel – Noy-Noy; Maya Koren – Dr. Stresovits, Noa Shemesh; Yaeli Rozenblit – Nati, Agent L; Guest Appearance: Yitzhak Hizkiya – Rabin

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