The Whore from Ohio

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Udi Razzin the son, Hobitter, Zishan Ugurlu the street whore, Bronsatsky, Victor Attar the old beggar, Hoimar
LR: Udi Razzin (the son, Hobitter), Zishan Ugurlu (the street whore, Bronsatsky), Victor Attar (the old beggar, Hoimar).

“The Whore from Ohio” by Hanoch Levin, Israel’s foremost playwright, is a black comedy that deals memorably with ultimate questions of fantasy, lust and mortality. La MaMa E.T.C. will present the play’s American debut in its First Floor Theater from November 30 to December 10 in a translation by Sandra Silverston, directed by Geula Jeffet Attar and Victor Attar. The play is the story of an old beggar, running from death, who goes to a whore and spends all of his savings, to the horror of his grasping beggar of a son.

Hanoch Levin was born in Tel Aviv in 1943 and died of cancer in 1999 after winning a reputation as a national treasure in Israel. His 56 plays are as universal as they are Israeli, characterized by powerful language and a Rabelaisian sense of humor. Sardonic, ironic and absurd, they resonate strongly worldwide. Levin laughs deeply at life through prototypical characters whose attributes–and even the onomatopoetic quality of their names–are original yet familiar. When you stop laughing in a Levin play, you often find you’ve just seen something extremely sad.

“The Whore from Ohio” is a fable of an old tramp named Hoibitter, who has dreamed all his life about an unattainable high-class prostitute in America. As his 70th birthday approaches, he seeks to give himself a birthday present that will suit his pocket: a visit to a street whore. His son, also a tramp, imagines his father as a secretly wealthy man and dreams of the vast inheritance that will one day be his. The son is tormented over the idea of his father throwing away 100 shekels, and knowing his father is impotent, this infuriates him further. The street whore, far more practical than both of them, is satisfied with the old man’s meager savings and relieves him of them in return for an illusion of love. In the end, fantasy remains the only redeeming force in their miserable lives.

The piece is styled like a lively burlesque; a sort of biblical tale adapted by John Waters for the Three Stooges. The father and son are like Vladimir and Estragon, with a cunning synthesis of sentiment and scatology added.

The old beggar will be played by Victor Attar, the whore by Zishan Ugurlu and the beggar’s son by Udi Razzin. Music is by Yuval Mesner, production design is by Rob Eggers and lighting design is by Sebastian Calderon-Bentin.

Hanoch Levin was no stranger to La MaMa. He brought his own play, “Ya’acobi and Leidental,” to La MaMa in 1981. In 1995, Geula Jeffet Attar directed his play, “Labor of Life,” at La MaMa, featuring Victor Attar, Joanna Peled and Richard Bach. Geula Jeffet Attar directed a workshop reading of “The Whore from Ohio,” preparatory to this production, at La MaMa on June 27, 2006.

Victor and Geula Attar have been part of La MaMa since 1971 and are founding members of La MaMa Tel Aviv. Their work is dedicated to creating avant-garde theater productions based on Jewish and Israeli literature and legends. Past works include plays on ancient themes, such as “Creation” by Yossefa Even-Shoshan and “Seven Beggers” by Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlev, and modern themes, such as “The Bride and the Butterfly Hunter” by Nissim Aloni, “Exile in Jerusalem” by Motti Lerner and “Masked Man” by Ilan Hatzor.

Geula was born in Israel of Yemenite heritage; Victor was born in Bagdad and immigrated to Israel at 14. They are both are graduates of NYU in Performance Studies and Victor was named by Show Business Magazine as one of the ten best actors Off-Broadway in 1969. He has been a former leading member of the Hacameri Tel-Aviv Municipal Theater and Khan Theater, the Jersusalem Repetory Theater. His avant-garde play, “The Road,” was the event that started the La MaMa Tel Aviv Company in 1971. In 1975, he achieved prominence for his performance in the La MaMa production of Fernando Arrabal’s “The Architect and the Emperor of Assyria,” directed by Tom O’Horgan. Recently, the couple have been working in both Israel and America. Last December at La MaMa, they collaborated on an acting tour de force by Victor involving two solo plays, “Einstein” by Gabriel Emanuel and “Golgotha” by Shmuel Refael.

Zishan Ugurlu (The Street Whore) is an actress and director-in-residence at La MaMa, where she has performed in The Great Jones Rep’s “The Trojan Women” (as Helen of Troy) and “Medea” (as Creusa), both directed by Andrei Serban with music by Elizabeth Swados. She has also appeared in Ellen Stewart’s “Yunus,” “Mythos Oedipus” and “Draupadi.” She earned a Ph.D. in Theatre from Ankara University and an MFA in Acting from Columbia. She is Assistant Professor at the Eugene Lang College of New School University.

Udi Razzin (The Son, Hobitter) is an Israeli-born actor now living in New York. He has appeared in “The Dumbwaiter” at the Trilogy Theater and “Gun Riki” at Access Theater. Razzin is the Artistic Director of NYC’s Nomad Theater Group and is currently in the process of producing “Bachelors & Bachelorettes,” an Israeli comedy written by Hanoch Levin, which he translated from Hebrew to English. He is an undergraduate at the SUNY Purchase Acting Conservatory.

Yuval Mesner (Composer) graduated from Jerusalem Academy of music and the Rimon School of Jazz. He has composed and played for major theaters in Israel including Habima Israel National Theater, Hakameri Tel-Aviv Municipal Theater and Beit Lessing in Tel-Aviv. He has composed and played in several rock groups and is a member of the world music project “East West Ensemble.” This is the fourth production that he has composed for La MaMa Tel-Aviv.

Robert Eggers (Production Designer) is a founding member and artistic director of Palehorse Productions. That company’s debut production, “Othello” at the Kraine Theater, which he directed and designed, won an Innovative Theatre Award for his costumes. In May of 2005, with Palehorse Productions, Eggers wrote, directed, and designed a 26-minute silent film of Hansel and Gretel. His latest production was an original street theatre commedia dell’arte circus adaptation of FAUST that played all over the streets and parks of the city. Eggers has worked extensively with the Edwin Booth Theatre in Dover, NH as a director, designer, and actor.

The production is supported in part by the Consulate General of Israel’s Office of Cultural Affairs in the USA and The Institute of Israeli Drama in Tel-Aviv.

La MaMa E.T.C. presents “The Whore from Ohio” November 30 to December 10, Thursday – Saturday at 8:00 pm and Sunday at 2:30 pm and 8:00 pm. To buy tickets ($15/tdf) call the box office at (212) 475-7710 or visit the theater’s homepage www.lamama.org

Jonathan Slaff is a New York publicist in the specialty of international cultural events. Jonathan and his writers keep us ahead of the curve in the world of the arts and culture.