By their own admission, the producers of Suddenly Hope describe the play as a work in progress. Their candor is not only appreciated, but creates a forum for constructive criticism that will lead, hopefully, to a better finished product.
Unlike the world premiere of Brooklyn, presented at the Denver Civic by the same producers earlier this summer, Suddenly Hope has a long ways to go before it can be described as anything other than community theatre.
In calling Suddenly Hope community theatre, we do not intend to denigrate this type of theatre, only to classify the goals and production values of this particular production. One use of the term "community theatre" describes stories that deal with the hopes, fears, and aspirations of an identifiable subset of the general population, and provides a venue in which members of that group, of varying skill sets, can participate.
The intended target audience for Suddenly Hope may claim to be anyone interested in peace in the Middle East, but the point-of-view of the production is definitely skewed toward that of American Jews looking for a light at the end of the tunnel of their 6,000 year tribulation. And while pacifism is certainly a legitimate tactic or philosophy toward this end, the credulity of the main story line—inviting enemy combatants to a black-tie dinner party to settle their differences—is far-fetched. At the extreme ends of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the issues do not result from any misunderstanding that can be discussed over hors d'oeuvres—they result from belief systems that have no room for coexistence. This is why all political solutions to the problem have failed; the bottom line is irreconcilable religions, something that can only be cured through spiritual evolution.
The music for the show, composed by Colorado native Morris Bernstein, is certainly smart enough to engender a successful musical, but the lyrics and book are so shallow they are often embarrassing. Rather than allow the characters and the politics of the story to speak through the action, every nuance is continually spelled out for us, in conversations and in songs.
Given this lack of genuine expression, it's no wonder that much of the staging seems unnatural or contrived. This makes it difficult to judge the acting talent, who generally seem to make the best out of inferior ingredients.
Jill Abramovitz is Hope Levine, an American who sets off to Israel in search of her missing sister, and gets embroiled in a new love affair and a terror plot. While Abramovitz manages to work well with the meshugah aspects of Hope's personality, her timbre of her voice is simply not capable of carrying a score.
Unless the producers want to confine this show to the JCC circuit, a script doctor with the authority to make major revisions is the only hope. Suddenly Hope runs through September 21st at the Denver Civic Theatre. 303-309-3773.