Theatre Rhinoceros presents the Bay Area premiere of Caryl Churchill's 'Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?'
As in the first play, Churchill's Seven Jewish Children combines moral outrage with a keen formal logic, and is capable of subtleties that belie its compact and deceptively simple structure. In a series of short, regular phrases, a set of parental voices discuss what to tell a young female child about the world she has been born into. The short scenes begin in Nazi Germany and end in 2008, covering seven decades of Jewish Israeli experience. Its coruscating and certainly provocative evocations seamlessly progress from the Holocaust to the colonizing of Palestine and the repression, in turn, of its indigenous Arab population.
The staging is again probably busier than it needs to be, since the force of the rhythmic dialogue (given histrionic emphasis by Cohen and Kim Stephenson as a married couple) is somewhat dissipated when haltingly delivered across multiple scene changes and the insertion of visual and chronological cues on the screen at the back of the stage. But the short work has raised dialogue and debate internationally, and it's long overdue for a production by a major Bay Area company. (The Rhino audience is invited to stay and discuss both plays afterward.)
Balance may be the objective in following this piece with Margolin's Seven Palestinian Children, but there is something lopsided about it just the same. Part of the problem is that Margolin's tit-for-tat response dulls the force of the impression left by the first play by co-opting its form and yet deploying it in a less muscular way. Indeed, Seven Palestinian Children (performed by Guerrero as a hotheaded Palestinian father and Stephenson as a more compassionate Palestinian mother) not only trades in the kinds of gendered stereotypes eschewed by Churchill's piece but, in substituting a male child for the female one, raises an uncomfortable gender dynamic in the very representation of Israel vis-à-vis Palestine. That may be latent in the Churchill play to some extent, but in making it explicit the pairing of plays risks being more obfuscating than clarifying of the relevant issues.
DRUNK ENOUGH TO SAY I LOVE YOU?
Wed/12-Sat/15, 8pm; Sun/16, 3pm, $15-$30
1117 Market, SF