Friday, February 25, 2011

A few good men

It was one of those days when despite nothing coming together somehow everything did. One kid sick, one kid wanting to play with sick kid who wanted time by herself. Cue superkvetchiness all round.

Upside was that after a whole morning plus of bickering with each other baby tired himself out so much that he needed a three hour nap and big sister took the opportunity to hole up in her room with a stack of books which left me to do the Shabbat cooking in peace, and find time to get a casserole going for dinner and straighten up the flat.

By the time DH came home all I was missing was a 1950s Mad Menesque skirt and frilly apron. Dinner dear?

Only what actually happened was that DH walked in the door looking beat, announced that he didn't feel up to going out tonight as per our plans and instead suggested I take myself out tonight. So I did.

A Few Good Men is one of my favourite films, to the point, ethical dilemmas, courtroom drama, my kind of thing, so when I saw that the Israeli Beit Lessin theatre company was staging an Israeli production of the play I had to go see it.

I was very curious to see how an American military drama would translate over here and I have to say I thought it was tremendously well done in pretty much everyway from the top notch acting to the creative, evocative sets. Most of the time I didn't even notice it was in Hebrew, I was focused on the story, the hallmark of one well told I think.

The local theatre's promotional ad advertised well known Israeli film actor Lior Ashkenazi "in the role of Tom Cruise" which didn't make sense to me as Ashkenazi is too old to be playing the young rookie JAG. Well, they were mistaken, Ashkenazi reprised Jack Nicholson's role as the Marine colonel, and I thought he suited it well.

There was fine acting all round but the stand out was Mordy Gershon playing the lead as Lt Caffee, (Tom Cruise in the film) Gershon sparkled in the role, he felt real and natural, superbly conveying his character's journey from a deal making cog just trying to get by until his law school debt is covered to passionate defence attorney pulling out every stop for the sake of justice.

The play itself was I think of special interest to Israeli audiences precisely because it is a military legal drama with themes very relevant to so many in a country with a draft and volatile borders to guard. Seeing what could in many ways be an original Israeli drama portrayed through the lense of the US military was a fascinating exercise, sparking a lot of interesting debate among the audience during the interval.

The set featured mutli-layered platforms gave the stage depth and allowed for smooth merging and switching of scenes, such as between Guantanamo sketched out with institutional looking metal stairs in the background and with a foreground of  polished wooden desks for the JAG offices. It sounds convoluted, but combined with subtle but spot on lighting, the effect was a perfect, understated compliment to the fine acting.

The only times I was painfully aware that this was an Israeli production were when I noticed glaring errors in translation, like the way a bunch of Marines and US Naval officers had lines about how proud they were to serve in the US Army. US Army? Hello, translator, there is a perfectly good Hebrew word for navy (tzi), not to mention that while I understand that when talking of the US military one can just say "Marines" in Hebrew, there is also a perfectly good (and used) Hebrew translation for Marines - nahatim.

And a tiny bit of research would have yielded the fact that there is a separate Dept of Navy responsible for both, and no Marine or naval officer that I know of would say they were serving in the US Army.

I know these details probably didn't matter to anyone else in the audience (DH would have told me to stop spoiling a good play with procedural nitpicking) but what can I say, I get pedantic about these things and it really bugged me that most of the Marines on stage weren't holding themselves in the manner that on duty Marines that I've seen would. Like the way the Lt JAG crossexamines his witness while slouching with his hands in his dress blues pockets or Lt Cmdr Galloway had her hair in a very un-regulation-like long dyed red plait hanging down her back with a puffed up quiff at the front while wearing her dress uniform to court or all the officers (except when they wore dress whites) appeared to have the same ranks - all had lieutenants' bars, even Colonel Jessop. Oops. You'd think that now JAG is off the air it might be easy to track down some surplus USN and Marines uniforms...

Those are just my nitpicks though, and while I do think they detracted somewhat from the atmosphere on stage, I'm pretty sure that for 99.99% of the audience these little errors made no difference to what was first class Israeli theatre. Bravo.

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