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Jane Enkin reviews Winnipeg Jewish Theatre's After Jerusalem- Berney Theatre, April 6-14, 2019

by Jane Enkin, April 6, 2019

Winnipeg Jewish Theare's "After Jerusalem", Berney Theatre, April 6-14, 2019

reviewed by Jane Enkin

janeenkinmusic.com

 

Put two very funny actors on stage together and you get a very funny show. Sharon Bajer and Toby Hughes are the awkward, sweet, intense couple who over-think every move in their encounter.

 

I attended the preview performance and I laughed a lot, along with a very appreciative audience.

 

Hughes looks the part of a typical Israeli soldier, masculine, tall, with an upright bearing, at the ready but at ease, even blasé. We find out right away that Vlad is a recent immigrant, like so many typical Israelis, with a dramatic, alluring Slavic accent.

 

The “meet-cute” happens at the security screening line-up for tourists entering the Church of St. Catherine in Bethlehem. Carol is there to feel the authentic spirit of Christmas, with “the real manger” and all. There's a long wait for security, and Carol takes up too much of the soldier's time, so much, in fact, that they begin to notice one another, and agree to meet for coffee in Jerusalem after his shift. The magic between them begins with an unexpected snowfall. As they charm each other, they charm the audience as well.

 

There are dark glimpses in the play, some personal experiences and some harsh realities of being a soldier in Israel. By and large, though, this is light comedy, with angst and expectations played for laughs.

 

Both characters lie through their teeth. Carol sets herself up as a glamorous actor, although she's really a Saskatchewan guidance counsellor who teaches a few drama classes in her high school. She goes on annual holidays “to get away from teenagers,” and usually tries some gambit for romance. Vlad has some ulterior motives for paying so much attention to this Canadian woman.

 

We don't hear Carol's exact age, but there are a few hot flashes jokes, and she feels older than she looks. Vlad laments being almost 35, and he says, “And you must be ... forty?” “Let's go with that.” is Carol's quick response.

 

Hughes is delightful, alternating from the soldier's own rich accent to an American sound as the two act out scenes from their favourite movies. He revels in the philosophical highs and lows as Vlad constantly adjudicates his own life.

 

Bajer's Carol is deliciously gawky. She pulls off the amazing feat of presenting some other characters while still being Carol play-acting, most impressively Vladimir's vamp of an ex-wife.

 

Both actors held my sympathy while making me laugh. Their life stories are mostly invented, but their frustrations are true, and so is their longing for connection.

 
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