nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
July 19, 2008
Allegiance to one's country or allegiance to one's family is the center of discussion in Meri Wallace's Yom Kippur, part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival. Set in Israel during the days and weeks before and after the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Yom Kippur tells the story of two couples, Ephraim and Sarah, and Yitz and pregnant Yael. As war breaks out, Yitz is called away (you can guess what happens next). Yael must deal with raising their child alone and the potential romantic relationship with the soldier who brings her bad news; Ephraim and Sarah must deal with his hidden love for Yael.
That Meri Wallace's script notes are more in-depth than Halina Ujda's production ends up being a disservice to the audience. Still the production is very heartfelt, as are the actors' performances. The collective ensemble is very strong, especially the authentic Israeli in the cast, Aylam Orian as Avi, the soldier. Arela Rivas is very good in her mammoth role as Yael and she has very strong chemistry with Gayle Robbins (Sarah).
Unfortunately, some distracting incongruities take away from the piece. For example, the Asian-lettering tattoo on Arela Rivas's ankle; the shaggy beards of Orion Delwaterman (Ephraim) and Shane Jerome (Yitz). In 1973, a practicing Jew with a tattoo was unheard of (it's slowly starting to become less of a stigma today)—this is perhaps an oversight on the part of costume designer Catherine Fisher, who also doesn't seem to dress the cast in '70s garb. Stephanie Tucci's set and Alex Moore's lighting do a good job with what they have and the space.
Wallace's script only begins to skim the surface of the big topics she raises and the sudden, abrupt ending isn't as satisfying as it could be. Yet Yom Kippur has heart and for that, it's worth seeing.