The play is set in Haifa during the recent Lebanon war and rockets and shelling are a constant factor. At the center of the play was a very powerful and disturbing portrayal of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The subject matter has great relevance to our own society right now with so many American soldiers returning from wars overseas.
I hope to see a full production of this play in the near future. We see so much of Israel on the news, and yet for a country that is in our public consciousness so much, we as Americans do not get a whole lot of exposure to Israeli arts.
On a very simple level, different cultures get to know each other through artistic exchanges. Arts are a humanizing force. Companies like Israeli Stage make it possible to hear the voice of a culture that we see so often on the news, and yet so seldomly see represented in this part of the world through theatre and film. I would argue that as much news coverage as the Middle East gets, most Americans have had very little exposure to the culture exports of the region (outside of hummus maybe). There is a whole lot of discussion of the region with very little understanding of the people themselves.
Theatre has the ability to change that. As an Israeli-American, I'm often dismayed by the oversimplifications and outright misrepresentations that get widely disseminated and stand in the way of productive dialogue. If we saw more plays and films from the region, we would have more tools to talk about the Middle East.
At Night's End is not an especially positive portrayal of Israeli society. That said, Mr. Lerner describes himself as a patriot and great lover of his country. His criticisms of war come from a man who has served in the IDF, and who has children who have served. The larger part of his audience will also have had that experience. When he says that his critiques come from a place of love I believe him. An American audience seeing a play about traumatized soldiers and their families will hopefully have a more sophisticated perspective the next time the region comes up on the news. And now, with so many American soldiers coming back from unpopular wars, seeing a story like this can deepen our views on what's happening here as well. (Not that we don't have people like my buddy Chris Mandia writing on that subject already, but we can definitely use more perspectives).
A few years ago I had the opportunity of co-curating a series of events called Their Voices Will Be Heard: Artists Respond to the Israeli/Palestinian Situation at New Repertory Theatre while in residence there. It was one of the harder things I've done in theatre. Our event was a month long, Israeli Stage is fostering an ongoing conversation. They're doing important work, and I'm eager to see where the organization is going.
For the record: the translator was Yoni Oppenheim, the director was Melia Bensussen, and the cast consisted of Patrick Curran, Kayla Foster, Abby Goldfarb, Susan K. Howards, Benjamin Kabialis, Karen MacDonald, Patrick McDonald, and Dale Place. The reading took place at the Boston Goethe Institut.