As the show begins, a British-Syrian reporter named Christiane Saloniki (a parody of CNN's Christiane Amanpour?) is doing a segment on Israeli society. She encounters a Latina actress, a second generation Kibbutznik, a German expatriate, a visiting yenta, a religious zealot, a Russian prostitute, a Palestinian intellectual, a female immigrant soldier, a Christian evangelist, and a Dutch rave girl. They make up such a motley cross-section of types that would appear fabricated if Israel were not actually so diverse.
Bahr, who lived in Israel from the age of 13 until the end of her mandatory army tenure, observes each character with such detail, humor, and irony that every portrait is memorable. The first interviewee sees Middle East turmoil through a Hollywood lens, describing suicide terrorists as being revered like Elvis. The Orthodox woman and her seven children scream anti-disengagement slogans. The Russian prostitute explains how she forged documents to enter the country and lists the many johns who visited her to relieve the stress caused by the last war with Lebanon. The clueless evangelist wonders whether the Jews he meets are only being friendly because of the political and financial support of his organization.
Like fellow solo performer Sarah Jones, whose Bridge & Tunnel was presented at the Culture Project, Bahr displays an impressive range of dialects and mannerisms, and uses simple costume changes to transform herself into these characters. (Since no costume designer is credited, one would assume that she has provided her own wardrobe.) The sound and lighting designers -- Frank Gaeta and Garin Marschall, respectively -- create frighteningly realistic explosions that end each portrait. Will Pomerantz directs the show sharply.
The only Palestinian voice heard in Dai is that of someone who speaks well of Israel's liberalism and opportunities and criticizes her own people's radicalism. Bahr portrays the media as biased and potentially anti-Semitic; the program notes refer to the IDF as "our extremely humane military." Still, this is no political screed, and there are many pointed jabs at the security barrier and Israeli attitudes toward immigrants.
The premise of the piece rests on the notion that television reportage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be so intelligent and mindful of history. In reality, most reports reduce the area's complicated disputes and relationships to sound bytes. Fortunately, good theater such as Dai can share the narratives that are not often heard on the small screen.
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