Finding Faith Amidst Destruction in Afghanistan
"Two Jews Wander Into War:" it's not a pretty title for the first play of the 23rd season of Florida Stage, 262 S. Ocean Blvd., Manalapan.
War is not pretty, nor is anti-Semitism or hate, and they are part and parcel of this world premiere by Seth Rozin.
Playwright Rozin was inspired by the true story of Zebulon Simentov and Isaac Levin, who were discovered by NATO troops in 2001 in the rubble of a ruined synagogue in Kabul, Afghanistan. The vicious zealots of the Taliban have been ousted from power, leaving the two men as apparently the only two surviving Jews in Afghanistan.
Instead of despairing, the men are preparing for the ritual of Channukah even as bullets still fly and bombs drop.
As unlikely as it seems, playwright Rozin has cast the story as a dark comedy of two bickering men fighting and surviving against the odds.
Director Louis Tyrrell has cast two master comic actors for the roles: Gordon McConnell as the Rabbi Ishaq and Avi Hoffman as his sole congregant, Zeblyan.
Rabbi Ishaq is so learned he knows the entire Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) by heart.
In order for a synagogue to be consecrated, it must have a Torah, written by hand on parchment.
The last Torah in Afghanistan has been destroyed, and with the Rabbi's total recall and Zeblyan's deft hand, they will improvise their own Torah, with Zeblyan the skeptic challenging the Rabbi every word and punctuation point of the way.
It helps to be somewhat knowledgable of the Bible to get the clever criticisms offered up by pugnacious Zeblyan. The play is performed without intermission in just 80 minutes, so it demands close attention of an audience.
Avi Hoffman has made a career celebrating the joys and foibles of being Jewish in his "Two Jewish?" one-man shows. Here he is perfectly cast as the skeptical Everyman, unafraid to question and argue with a man of superior knowledge and faith, yet knowing in his heart the traditions he is grudgingly preserving are worth life itself.
"Two Jews Wander Into War" is not everyone's cup of tea. I found it curious, yet provocative and stimulating, and ultimately life-affirming- for that is what faith is all about.
And no, you do not have to be Jewish.
Tickets are $45-$48. Call 800-514-3837 or visit www.floridastage.org.