There is nothing sweet about this treat, yet Treats, directed by Ofer Amram at Hasimta Theatre in Jaffa, is indeed a treat. That is, if you enjoy biting sarcasm, a cruel wit, power plays and relationships that feed on uncertainty – but that’s the question, do you?
This tart love triangle written by Christopher Hampton in 1976 and translated into Hebrew by Nehemi Drimer, finds Ann, a translator, between two lovers: one, Patrick, kind and a bit blurry around the edges, and one – Dave, her recent ex – for whom cruelty is a sport and art.
Performed in Hasimta’s lower level hall, the stage is in the center of the space, with a retro abstract print curtain in shades of brown as a background and the audience seated on the three remaining sides – a triangle both physical and conceptual. The unusual seating arrangement emphasizes the specificity of vision – from any angle one is aware that one’s view is merely “a” view, a partial view, one of three possible angles.
There is an appealing retro 70s look to the play, with each detail meticulously and lovingly attended to – from the over-all brown and orange color scheme to the turntable, the ceramic coffee cups, Patrick’s argyle socks and Ann’s equestrian print blouse. The period design establishes a certain distance from the play’s action and characters, which works well with the intimate setting of the theatre. The actors are only a few feet away from the audience – we are literally in their living room.
Another design element that exerts a strong influence on the play is the lighting, which is quite unconventional. The house lights are kept up so that the audience is seated in the light, which given the seating arrangement, means that one can also look at people seated across the way to see their reaction to the play. All this seems somehow in sync with Hampton’s apparent inspiration for the play: having translated Ibsen’s A Doll House in 1973; he noted that there were perhaps as many women who remained in abusive relationships in the 1970s. The proximity of the stage and the ability to view other audience members introduces a voyeuristic element to the experience that is very much in line with Hampton’s intent to take A Doll House closer to the edge, creating an experience of abuse and the acceptance (or desire?) of that abuse that resonates for contemporary audiences.
Why do women remain in abusive relationships? Rational thought does not suffice here. The theatre has an advantage – Hampton’s text and Amram’s presence creating a disturbingly charming Dave. The cast works very well here – with the petite Ann (Anat Klausner) and diminutive Patrick (Amitai Kedar) clearly overwhelmed by the majestically proportioned Amram as Dave, who moves with a dancer’s grace to, as he says, “divide and conquer”. Amram delivers a charismatic performance. Dave is alluring and repulsive, with quicksilver transitions from one mood to its opposite, always a step ahead of the other two, his eyes piercing and his mouth barely lifting into a satisfied smirk.
If Ann, seeking to assert her independence and autonomy, is torn between the two men, Patrick is drawn into the game as well. Hesitant, kind, eager to please and vulnerable, Kedar portrays the ultimate anti-hero in all his misery, and his uncontrollable sparks of attraction to the bullying Dave are a delight to behold. Anat Kloazer’s Ann is intelligent and able to stand firm against the bully – rendering her seduction into submission all the more intriguing.
The brilliant, creepy thing about the play is the way it succeeds in replicating the effect that it questions – we are entertained and inevitably, attracted to Dave against our better judgment, just like Ann and in his own way, Patrick. Thought-provoking and entertaining, the play shines a spotlight on the dark corners of relationships – there are no innocents here. In this play of dominance and submission, the knowledge that the roles may be reversed at any moment only adds to the thrill, and the audience is implicated as well. Although the message is somewhat disheartening, the play is a lot of fun. Perhaps Patrick should just go out and find the dominatrix of his dreams… or become one.
Treats, by Christopher Hampton, translated into Hebrew by Nehemi Drimer
Director: Ofer Amram
Set and costume design: Ofer Amram
Lighting design: Uri Rubinstein
Ann: Anat Klausner
Patrick: Amitai Kedar
Dave: Ofer Amram
Duration: about 1 hour, 15 min
Tickets are 50 – 70 NIS, to order call: 03-6812126
Future performances: February 3, 2011 at 20:30, February 4, 2011 at 21:00
Hasimta Theatre, 8 Mazal Dagim, Old Jaffa.