I Heart Hamas: And Other Things I'm Afraid to Tell You
nytheatre.com review by Gyda Arber
August 8, 2008
For Jennifer Jajeh, it's tough being Palestinian-American. People start political conversations with her as soon as she reveals her heritage. Dating can be complicated, especially when her New Year's kiss reveals himself to be Jewish. Her friend's family has trouble letting her keep a cat she's been cat sitting for months, afraid she's going to change the cat's name to something Palestinian. So what's a girl to do? Move to Palestine, of course!
I Heart Hamas: And Other Things I'm Afraid to Tell You is Jajeh's one-woman show about her life as a Palestinian-American, and more importantly, her time spent living in the West Bank. Jajeh's transformation from pampered American to checkpoint videographer to Hamas sympathizer engages us every step of the way. As the situation in Ramallah gets worse and worse, with bombings and clash points and children being shot in the streets, Jajeh finds herself denouncing the actions of Israeli soldiers more and more, culminating with an inadvertent cheer at the news of soldiers' deaths, and some serious self-reflection afterwards that leads her to leave Palestine for good.
Jajeh is a charming narrator and provides us with a cornucopia of characters to tell her story, including the deli owner around the corner, a terrified checkpoint observer, and her Palestinian boyfriend's overbearing mother. A favorite moment is her fantasy sequence at the start of the show, "It's Great To Be a Palestinian-American Day," in which Jajeh is granted a day of reprieve from all the political conversations and attacks she encounters on a daily basis.
Despite a few directorial missteps (frequent miming feels out-of-place here, transitions between scenes are weak, and there's a bit too much head-swiveling as Jajeh portrays both sides of every conversation when in most cases only one side is necessary), I Heart Hamas provides a fascinating look into a world we don't often see or hear about. Jajeh inspires the audience to empathize with the Palestinian plight via her portrayal of the hardship of day-to-day life in the West Bank. Kudos to Jajeh and her production team for bringing this important conversation to FringeNYC.