In the opening moments of Samara Weiss' disturbing AK-47 Sing-Along, playing at HERE Arts Center, a little girl (Kristina De Mora), clad in traditional Arab garb, announces "I will be a martyr" to her playmate, a guy who looks a like he might have escaped from a low-rent version of Cats. The scene is a recreation of the sorts of things that are heard on an actual Hamas-supported kids' show, and is one of the many harrowing moments to be found in the work, which has been directed with workman-like precision by Lucy Cashion.
Other parts of the play center on the friendship between the Jewish Yakov (played with appealing intensity by Matthew Michael Hurley) and the Arab Hassan (imbued with rugged sensitivity by Adi Hanash), former colleagues on a bilingual version of Sesame Street that once aired in Israel and the Occupied Territories, that disintegrates and is ultimately shattered during Israel's bombing of Gaza at Christmas in 2008.
Interspersed with these scenes are ones featuring a fictional kids' show, which is hosted by Salwa (Mary de la Torre) as well as animal characters (a curiously cute and menacing Devin Bokaer) which are depicted in the show as dying as a result of the Israeli-Palestine conflict. In these sequences, too, the characters berate "Zionist imperialists" and sing songs, such as the one that announces to Jerusalem "Here we come with our guns."
It's an intriguing convergence of absurdism and realism - but one wishes Weiss were less academically earnest in her writing. Both the TV characters and the men seem equally one-dimensional. If they were more fully realized, AK-47 might be an emotionally shattering play rather than just an intellectually satisfying one.
-- Andy Propst