Jewlicious takes me places. It’s taken me to Long Beach, California for a student conference (which may, even, inspire a sequel). It’s taken me to additional fame on local TV. And tonight, it took me to the premiere of Meital Dohan’s original show, Bath Party.
In Israel, Meital Dohan is a star of stage, screen and television. In Israel, she’s been nominated for Israeli Academy Awards*, but here, she’s just another actress with an off-Broadway show, trying to make it in America. Which works fine for her, since that’s what the show’s about: her attempt to live the American Dream (“I came here with a suitcase, $500 and a vibrator**”), but in possession of a distinctly Israeli accent and demeanor.
The autobiographical show, presented at NY’s HERE Arts Center (the theater that developed acclaimed works like “The Vagina Monologues” and Camryn Manheim’s “Wake Up! I’m Fat”), takes the audience through the immigrant experience through a thespian lens. Dohan is told that because of her accent, “we need to find you a part where you don’t have to talk.” She is advised that she needs to stop complaining and put some clothes on, because in America, “we don’t complain,” and “we don’t like sluts in this country.”
The play, which begins as a fairly self-indulgent portrayal of the actress, evolves into more of a commentary on the compelling appeal of an American Dream which, for many immigrants, may ultimately be unattainable. The one-person show format, in which the performer spends the show speaking directly to the audience, can be awkward–but in this case, the problem is circumvented by the participation of two additional cast members, who serve as costume changers, set reorganizers, and allow Dohan to play off people other than the audience members. Dohan is at her best when interacting with her fellow cast members, and (surprisingly) when interacting with guest cast members via pre-recorded video bits.
Variety said that Dohan “looks like a tough Audrey Tautou” [sic] and Yediot Achronot said, “talented Meital Dohan represents young Israeli culture.” Dohan has bright, expressive eyes that do recall Tatou and the Myrna Loy-type actresses of the silent era, when an actor’s face had to do the speaking for her. But the wide-eyes make frequent and piercing contact with the audience, even during extremely provocative dancing, which makes you think less of Amelie and more of Kylie Minogue.
One word of warning: The show is not kid-friendly, and would certainly not be part 4 of the Tznius is Hot series, as Dohan is in various states of undress throughout the show (although there is no live nudity–sorry, boys). And if you’re expecting her to share her political opinions about the “matzav” or the disengagement, you’re out of luck. Dohan’s purpose is not political; it is an exploration of her journey as an artist and an expression of her longtime fixation on becoming an American.
Bath Party runs through at HERE (145 Avenue of the Americas, between Spring and Broome) through September 18. Shows run Tuesday-Friday at 7pm, Saturday at 3pm & 7pm, and Sunday at 7pm.
(Reyut, todah b’ad hakartis…)
*Israeli Academy Award Nominee for Best Actress in God’s Sandbox 2002; Israeli Academy Award Nominee for Best Actress in Giraffes in 2001; Israeli Theater Award (Israel equivalent Tony Awards 2000) for Most Promising Actress in Best Girlfriend; The Cameri Theater Prize for Bad Kids 2002; American Israel Foundation Scholarship 1996, 1997 ; Cameri Theater Scholarship for Deserving Young Actress, 1999… for more, see Meital Dohan’s website.
** Let’s hear it for Jewish vibrators!