Paradise a Very Good Play About Not-So-Paradise

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My first thought upon leaving Compass Theatre tonight was that Glyn O’Malley’s Paradise should be immediately followed by a talk-back session. It would have been stimulating to have a couple of people who had lived through the Intifada in Israel in 2002.

The story is based on a Palestinian, Ayat al-Akhrase, and an Israeli, Rachel Levy, two 17-year-old girls caught in the terror of the time. Director Alice Cash, herself 17, chose a most difficult task of bringing a hard-driving play to the Resilience of the Spirit Festival. The story parallels the lives of two teenagers.

Sara (Charlotte Ostrow) and her mother, Shoshana (Dana Hooley) are Israelis. Sara has been living in the United States and recently moved to Israel to be with her mother. Fatima (Gabriela Espinal) is being visited by her cousin, Omar (Daniel Myers), who also lived in the U. S. They are Palestinian.

Shoshana is a very protective mother of a very adventurous teenage photographer. Sara captures the flavor of Israel and its diverse peoples. She often ventures into dangerous areas. Likewise, Omar, who has romantic eyes for Fatima, is very protective of her. He is especially wary of Bassam (Ryan Murphy), a militant Palestinian.

The relationship between Sara and her mother is completely real and could take place anywhere. In Israel, however, even a slightly rebellious teen can be seriously problematical. Ostrow and Hooley are a perfect match, convincing us or their closeness.

Drama requires changes. In Paradise it is Fatima who changes. Watching Espinal transition through the play as the influence of Fatima’s cousin is balanced, then overtaken, by the influence of Bassam is awesome. She is very subtle throughout the change. Myers’ Omar moves from cajoling to ranting as his lovely cousin succumbs to Bassam’s way of thinking.

Murphy’s Bassam is just plain scary. His portrayal is that of a classic radical. Bassam believes strongly in his cause; however, he can only see change through terror and hate. His performance is absolutely convincing.

The set consists of four panels, some with graffiti on them. One is used to project some of Sarah’s photos. O’Malley’s play is really a vast series of short scenes unfolding the fast moving story. Bassam has solo tirades, while the Palestinian couple and the Israeli family have the pleasant moments and their conflicts. Thus, there is very little action and a lot of exposition. In this story, telling it works.

Director Cash cast professionally. With a simple set, many scenes changing locations from Jerusalem to a Palestinian refugee camp, it all works. The transitions between scenes are almost instantaneous. Her cast is convincing in their actions and emotions. In some plays one is happy for the experience. In Paradise one appreciates the experience and has learned much more about the difficult interaction in Israel.

The production played to a sold-out house. I highly recommend it. It is a chance to see very good acting from the next generation to hit our stages. Seeing Paradise is an experience you will not forget. The show runs through this weekend only at Compass Theatre, 6th @ Penn, San Diego. Box Office phone is 619 688-9210. Edress is www.resilienceofthespirt.com.

Cast:

Gabriela Espinal, Charlotte Ostrow, Ryan Murphy, Daniel Myers, Dana Hooley

Technical Staff:

SM Keegan Porter

Genre: Drama

Author: Glyn O’Malley

Director: Alice Cash

Date Reviewed: March 28, 2008

Running Time: 89 minutes with no intermission

Dates: Thu-Sun, July 31 to August 3, 2008

Broadway Kids of San Diego

Compass Theatre

6th @ Penn

San Diego, CA

Box Office Phone: 619 688-9210

Edress: www.resilienceofthespirt.com