Natural cataclysms and war have a way of wiping out everyday rules and casting their victims into a wholly lawless and incomprehensible world. Such are the conditions across the Middle East and, in particular, the frontier now partitioned into Israel and Palestine. Whatever our religious affiliation or spiritual orientation, and whatever our historical perspective, events in this theatre of war force us to pause and take stock, as if our own survival depends upon it—and it might.

Ami Dayan as Da'ud, Tyler Ryan as Chaled, and Ryan Eggensperger as Na'im
Ami Dayan as Da'ud,
Tyler Ryan as Chaled,
and Ryan Eggensperger as Na'im
Photo: Alana Eve Berman
Thankfully, Masked, young Israeli playwright Ilan Hatsor's award-winning one-act, avoids the historical arguments entirely and concentrates on the difficult circumstances that face three Palestinian brothers during the first Intifada in 1990. Caught between stone-throwers and small armed bands on one side and the Israel Defense Forces on the other, Chaled, Na'im, and Da'ud are at loggerheads over how to survive.

As Chaled begins to clean up from a day's work in the back room of a butcher shop somewhere on the West Bank, he discusses reports with Na'im that someone saw Da'ud in an Israeli Secret Service car on the night of the uprising. In Na'im's eyes, the implication that Da'ud may have a connection with the enemy is tantamount to treason.

Ryan Eggensperger as Na'im
Ryan Eggensperger as Na'im
Photo: Alana Eve Berman
Na'im is a firebrand. He joined the underground early, lives hand to mouth in the wilderness, and has no tolerance for anyone who is less committed. Ryan Eggensperger seizes on this intense, inspired single-mindedness and drives the inevitability of the drama forward.

Chaled, the youngest, may be mild and thoughtful, but he is not without strong feelings toward both the impossible plight of his people and his love of his two brothers. Tyler Ryan brings sensitivity to Chaled, creating a fulcrum between Na'im's idealism and Da'ud's practicality.

Ami Dayan as Da'ud and Ryan Eggensperger as Na'im
Ami Dayan as Da'ud and
Ryan Eggensperger as Na'im
Photo: Alana Eve Berman
Da'ud, the oldest, is married with one child and another on the way. His responsibilities bring him a completely different set of priorities than Na'im's, thus setting up the central conflict of the story. As Ami Dayan navigates Da'ud through the intricacies of the plot, he shades each temporary reality as if were the final revelation, until the inevitable tragic forces are ultimately unmasked and the shocking climax is naked before us.

As in all wars, we come to see how one is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't, until, unavoidably, brother is pitted against brother. To achieve this clarity of insight amidst such an emotionally charged and confusing conflict is a theatrical achievement of great measure.

The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art and Maya Productions' Masked runs through June 3rd. 303-443-2122.

Bob Bows


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