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Review: 'dai (enough)' at Lillian Theatre

February 5, 2009 |  4:50 pm

Dai_cigprod_still_1We get the conceit behind “dai (enough)” early on. Writer-performer Iris Bahr’s solo show, now at the Lillian, catches the habitués of a Tel Aviv café in the moments before a suicide bombing. The play is constructed in a series of individual monologues. Just as we are getting to know the particular character, the bomb detonates. And that same bombing is replicated, again and again, as each person’s life abruptly ends.

Bahr won the 2008 Lucille Lortel Award for her performance, originally staged off-Broadway by Will Pomerantz.  Buoyed by Frank Gaeta’s superb sound design, Bahr portrays almost a dozen characters with propulsive panache. There’s the Russian prostitute, the gay German furniture designer, the politically radical Israeli mother who encapsulates the history of her beleaguered nation in brisk detail.

Bahr’s dramatic intentions are obvious: She sets out to personalize the individual loss within the collective cataclysm, and she succeeds, shatteringly. As each character chatters away cheerfully, we know he or she is doomed. And although we brace ourselves for the inevitable blast, the cumulative explosions take us to a peak of dread and tension that is almost unbearable.

Bahr’s political intentions are obvious as well. In an era of surging anti-Jewish hatred, she makes a passionately common-sense case for the Israeli cause and points out genocidal intentions of Israel’s fanatical adversaries. As one of her characters unequivocally observes, “The Arabs put down their weapons, no more war. We put down our weapons, no more Israel.”

There are rough patches. Bahr’s unnecessary device of having the same reporter interview each character defies logic. And a few of Bahr’s mannerisms and accents seem blurringly similar. Despite those flaws, Bahr is an engaging performer who brings humor and humanity to her various personae.  More important, “dai” is a compellingly distilled, superbly reasoned piece that states the Israeli cause with rationalism and restraint.

-- F. Kathleen Foley

“dai (enough),” Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Feb. 15. $25. (323) 960-4410. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Caption: Iris Bahr in "dai (enough)" at the Lillian Theatre.  Credit: Bruce Glickas