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Theater review: 'On Holy Ground' at the MET Theatre

November 23, 2011 |  1:04 pm

On Holy Ground
In "On Holy Ground," playwright Stephanie Liss addresses the Israeli/Palestinian conflict via two one-acts that present the perspectives of three women, a project that's admirable and daunting in its directness.

The first play, "Daughter of My People," might be a counterpoint companion piece to "My Name Is Rachel Corrie," humanizing a real-life figure, Hadassah co-founder and Youth Aliyah heroine Henrietta Szold. Equal parts poetic elegy and biographical dialogue, Liss' graceful albeit conventional script benefits immeasurably from the translucent Salome Jens, as ever an actress of rare emotional access, who embodies Szold with mercurial spirituality and profound honesty.

After intermission comes "Jihad," placing both sides of the divide unswervingly before us. Set in the settlement of Efrat, Liss' scenario concerns two bereaved mothers of only daughters: Shula (Lisa Richards), a tensely serene Orthodox Jew, and Reim (Abbé Rowlins), a resolutely fanatical Muslim jihadist.  The contrasts, and tacit similarities, could not be more vivid, which shores up the bluntly schematic structure while making the intersection of their losses doubly tragic. Richards has some volume issues, Rowlins' British accent occasionally intrudes, yet their commitment is unquestionable, wrenching at the final moments of sheer feral grief.

Under L. Flint Esquerra's direction, the physical production is serviceable, with designer Julie Simpson's two sets making much of simple means, Joseph "Sloe" Slawinski's sound cues almost subliminal and Lloyd F. Reese's lighting black-box-resourceful. "On Holy Ground" is hardly the last word on a combustible topic, nor should it be, but its integrity and thought-provoking intent is wholly respectable.

-- David C. Nichols

"On Holy Ground," the MET Theatre, Downstairs in the Great Scott Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays (dark this Friday). Ends Dec. 18. $15. (800) 838-3006 or Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

Photo: Lisa Richards and Abbe Rowlins in "On Holy Ground." Credit: Irene Hovey.