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Theater J brings Israeli politics to the Davis Center
Boged (Traitor): An Enemy of the People, showing in Davis Performing Arts Center from Jan. 15 to Feb. 3, is an inspiring play, covering delicate themes of corruption, greed, and power. Largely based on Henrik Ibsen’s late nineteenth century opus, Boged effectively moves Ibsen’s story into contemporary Israel, but the relatable narrative could very well have taken place here in America.
Written by Boaz Gaon and Nir Erex, the play was first produced in Israel, and has since been staged multiple times, most recently by the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in conjunction with the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies.
The play comes to Georgetown from Theater J, described as “one of the most distinctive, progressive, and respected Jewish theaters on the national and international scene.” Primarily located in Dupont Circle, Theater J is performing Boged at Georgetown as part of their Voices from a Changing Middle East Festival. They wrapped up their production of Apples from the Desert on Jan. 6, and soon after started performances of Boged earlier this week. The company mission statement writes that the company strives to produce, “thought provoking, publicly engaged, personal, passionate and entertaining plays and musicals that celebrate the distinctive urban voice and social vision that are part of the Jewish cultural legacy.”
Directed by Joseph Megel, and starring Michael Tolaydo in the role of Tommy Doany, the play opens in the home of Tommy Doany and his wife Katy. Tommy is a scientist and brother of the city’s mayor, Simon. He and his brother, played by Brian Hemmingsen, led the movement to create an industrial park in the town, bringing in both industry and the possibility of an economic boom.
At the same time, Tommy’s daughter, Yarden Doany, played by Blair Bowers, confronts her father about the industries, noting that the children at the local school, where she is a teacher, are beginning to get sick. Soon, Tommy reveals to his family that there is poison in the water, caused by the rapid growth of the industries. He takes it upon himself to bring justice to the townspeople, but the corruption surfaces all too quickly, and it’s not long before a traitor is named.
Though the play itself is somewhat predictable, if not revealing from the start, the show is very entertaining for any and all interested in political theater. Tommy Doany presents a hero torn by the needs of multiple family members. By putting the needs of the city first, he endangers his family and effectively destroys his own status as a reputable scientist. The city responds negatively, driven by their economic needs, and like many tragic heroes Tommy ends up with nothing. Though the play does a good job of developing the characters of nearly all introduced in the play, the two Doany men are especially exceptional.
As a whole, Boged aims at attracting mature audiences, addressing issues like outsourcing and environmental justice, in addition to the role of media in politics. Unfortunately, what could have been a great debate of industry and politics ends in a biased, however socially just, conclusion. Though it manages to institute a broad range of sociopolitical topics into its narrative without overreaching in this capacity, audiences shouldn’t expect to leave the theater shaken or too deeply disturbed—this is a play that merely skims the surface of a debate that could be more analyzed in much more depth.