|Brian Lipson and Gideon Orbazank. Photo: Sarah Walker
Two Jews Walk into a Theatre….
Devised and performed by Brian Lipson and Gideon Obarzanek. Directed and choreographed by Lucy Guerin. Producer Michaela Coventry-Sage Arts. Lighting design. Bosco Shaw. Music. Oren Ambarchi. Odeon Theatre. Adlide Festival 2019. March 8 – 10.
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
|Brian Lipson and Gideon Obarzanek Photo Sarah Walker
Two Jews walk into a theatre. They sit in the foyer waiting for a show to start and for the next hour they converse about Time zone differences between Adelaide and the East Coast, public transport, their sons who are performing, the Israeli/Palestine conflict and Life. They converse on chairs for almost an hour. Is it theatre? Acclaimed theatre director once said and I paraphrase: “ A man enters and crosses the stage and theatre has taken place.”
What makes Two Jews Walk Into A Theatre…” an intriguing theatrical conversation, ingeniously devised and performed by Brian Lipson and Gideon Obarzanek is that it is much more than a mere duologue in front of a red curtain. Shades of Ionesco emerge as we discover that the sons have the names of the two actors, and the two actors describe their real life experiences as though they are describing the lives of their sons, Brian Lipson, the experimental theatre actor and Gideon Obarzanek, the dancer. It is a clever and tantalizing device to reveal the real lives of the two actors as if they belong to their sons. They then play out their own fathers and what emerges is a generational change in experiences and attitudes.
The play becomes a rite of reminiscence, an opening of old wounds, and the irreconcilable differences that shape the character and experience of each generation.. We also learn of the lives of Lipson and Obarzanek’s fathers, one whose family escaped the Russian pogroms and the other whose father fled Poland to escape extermination in a concentration camp. And yet, in spite of similar backgrounds the two irascible fathers, played by actors Lipson and Oberzanek hold very different views on the Israel/Palestine conflict. The lives, lived by the older Laurence Lipson and Senek Obarzanek, expose the continuing debates on refugees and what it is to be a Jew.
Director Lucy Guerin cleverly paces the conversation between the two men. A casual conversation can quickly turn tense until a long pause releases the tension and convivial conversation begins again. Then, as if out of nowhere, a careless word or a misinterpreted comment brings the cantankerous fathers of the fathers and the grandfathers of the performing sons into yet another disagreement.
It is time for the performance to begin. Lives have been revealed. Attitudes have been exposed. Fathers and sons have been reconciled by old age or a daughter in law’s cooking And yet scars remain for another generation to heal. Laurence Lipson leaves to exit behind the curtain where his son’s experimental work is about to begin.. Senek follows to see his son dance upon the stage. The curtain opens to reveal two men in tableau. The performance begins, an hilariously funny parody of experimental theatre and contemporary dance.
Almost two hundred stories exist in the lives of the audience who sit in the Odeon Theatre to watch four stories unfold. Two Jews Walk Into A Theatre is no theatrical spectacle. There’s no grandiose set, no exquisite costumes or dazzling lighting and visual effects. Oren Ambarchi’s music subtly comes only at the end as Lipson and Obarzanek perform their Dadaesque piece. Two men sit and talk and their stories come to life. In our imaginations it becomes as funny as any hilarious comedy, as sad as any drama, as captivating as any story told upon a larger stage. Theatre is two excellent actors walking into a theatre, sitting in front of a curtain and revealing to a fascinated audience the stories of their lives. After all, all that it takes to create theatre is two actors, a plank and a passion, and sometimes you can do without the plank.