SHUFRA | 2007
One of Tel Aviv’s longest running fringe shows. Set in a New Age empowerment workshop, Shufra is a series of sexually-charged monologues that also transforms into an interactive experience with the audience. Each character reveals the lives of young adults exposing their lives on the internet, in bars, or inside themselves—struggling with situations, emotions and identities.
FRINGE PLAY OF THE YEAR- 2007
The Fringe theaters in Israel are in a state of distress. Either they try to create plays that could have run in the large theaters, or they let any Tom Dick and Harry practice on their stages. However, occasionally the metronome stops right in the middle. And then fringe can produce great things. Shufra, the brilliant and crazy play written by Eyal Weiser for Tmuna Theater, is one of those things. Weiser ("Vetu Lo") manages to create a textual language that is completely different from what we know, a language he believes represents what he calls the confusion of Generation Y. The result is a mixture of painful, clever, and smart moments that interchange within seconds. This is why we need fringe theater.
Time-Out Magazine | Yonatan Esterkin
"The legs of reality today have caught up with the wings of imagination," once said the witty Abba Eben, and he didn't know how correct he was, also with regard to political theater in Israel today. On Saturday, I read Gideon Levi's article about what we aren't told about things going on in Gaza, and on Saturday night radio, I heard the chillingly restrained voice of the mother of Yochai, one of the victims murdered at Merkaz Harav Yeshiva.
Among the media's smooth pleasantries, the smug slickness in awareness workshops of all kinds, the slippery Israeli dialogue filled with euphemisms that remain filthy, playwright Eyal Weiser finds himself right on target, with a sharp and persuasive episodic play.
Weiser, in his violent crude texts and with the intentionally subtle direction of Alon Cohen, with four natural actors who create an intimate relationship with the audience, has succeeded in creating excellent political theater – theater that efficiently navigates between the infuriating lack of depth and the equally enraging cowardice.
The play opens with the excellent Natalie Fainstein as a guide of a workshop. As she banters with the audience, Efrat Arnon, Itzik Golan, and Yuval Abramovitz sit there, half bored, indifferent, and somewhat annoyed.
Fainstein's character is named Anna, like "Ana" at a Palestinian checkpoint, and one by one, they perform monologue about the subtle but awful violence in Israeli society: in sex, in its attitude towards the Holocaust, its treatment of minorities – violence in all the traumatic components of Israeli identity, including that which tries to be post-modern but is deeply mired in self-righteousness. Therefore, Weiser, Cohen, and the individual actors' treatment of people who are ostensibly sophisticated, because they are "in" but actually lack self-irony, fulfills what critical social theater should do: it kicks us in the gut. Simply and painfully.
Israel Today Newspaper | Shimon Levi
"SHUFRA" – AN EXTRA-FRINGE PLAY
Four actors perform impressive monologues and create a funny and nightmarish dialogue with the audience, written and directed with inspiration.
As soon as I realized the play I'm about to see is built as a kind of a self-awareness workshop, I could feel the blood freezing in my veins. My blood started running freely again as the hostess started with some breathing exercise (her breathing) and the first laugh waves started to burst, washing me to into the "workshop" atmosphere. My skepticism was fading away completely as the hostess amazingly enough started dubbing some of the people in the crowd of this intimate theatre hall of "Tmuna" theatre. Like a butterfly being drawn to fire she was almost burned when she reached me and then to Michael Hendelzaltz (theatre critic) and started dubbing us. Was it the actress Natalie Fainstein who was momentarily separated from the character's anonymous manner, or was it the professional hostess starting to lose control? Either way it fits very well to her great monologue that was the "foreplay" to the other three workshop members' exposure, and her own exposure towards the end.
Eyal Weiser's excellent play is written as a series of sexually-charged monologues by youngsters of the "here and now" generation – who quickly fall to their own traps – in the internet, in bars or inside themselves, convoluting, struggling and being exposed in a complete mental nakedness. Each one of the monologues can be the core of four different solo-plays. Every one of them exposes occasions, situations, emotions and identities in front of which you can't stay indifferent. Sometimes they are very funny – if it's because of the sharp text that's developing into a nightmarish situation, or because of the audience's embarrassment, (as we can also experience in olby's "Virginia Wolf"). But their greatest virtue is the way they express with a lot of accuracy, the human transition from external to internal, to the deep hidden being, that’s when the text cuts you like a knife and releases powerful pain.
Young Weiser managed to find five excellent stage interpreters for his play – the first one is the young director Alon Cohen, who did well designing each monologue as an independent acting piece, different from the others, and also the listening, silence and even the discomfort of the other three, (as a mirror to the audience). He found four actors who have a true competition trying to get the first acting prize – which they all win together.
Efrat Arnon is marvelously portraying, first with great tenderness and then with crazy ferociousness, the character of a neurotic woman that through the internet discovers a blunt and sadistic sexuality. She also concludes the play with a monologue by a radio broadcaster that I couldn’t really realize how it belongs to the rest of the play, but it was also written and preformed wonderfully. Yuval Abramovich takes off his shades and bursts out with a rhythmical text that he prepared in advance which has a tune, (written by Amir Lakner), coming from a little cassette player that he carries, and then he has a fascinating story that step by step reveals a tortured homosexual being, both bits are preformed in a gripping manner. Itzik Golan brings you to tears as a dog's coiffeur who's neighbor – an insane holocaust refugee, or at least that’s what she thinks she is – is gradually driving him crazy. As aforesaid the hostess is being portrayed by the virtuoso Natalie Fainstein, in the opening monologue as a hostess and especially in her "inner self" monologue as a beast looking for her predator.
"Shufra" is a play dealing with sexuality as a representor of the disruption, the loneliness, and the pain of the "here and now" generation, with it's innovation and technological progress.
An excellent play, (that should have been accompanied with a program sheet that will include names of the creative cast, some information on the director and the play writer, and will enable the audience to recognize which actor is playing which character).
Abama Internet Culture Magazine | Zvi Goren
THE SMIELY GENERATION IS EAGRED TO CRY
"SHUFRA" – The new play provides an amusing hour with four talented actors who represent the "y-generation" that prefer the "dolce vita" and goes out to a surrealistic journey in a self-awareness workshop.
I'm not familiar with any of the names related to this new play – "SHUFRA". I assume it only shows how desolated I am from what flows in the theatre young veins, and how new the cast is in that field.
The play is the "y-generation" allegation. A generation that’s being separated and chooses "la dolce vita", as a parody referring to the "x-generation", that was supposed to be the great un-known. The play takes place in a self-awareness workshop, held by the allegedly charismatic, open and self-confident hostess. She's called Anna, (Natalie Fainstein) and she also tries ridiculous physical releasing exercises. She handles a free dialogue with the audience about the importance of accepting one's "self", (and the theatre critics in the audience, Zvi Goren and myself, didn’t make it easier for her), and mainly encourages her three partners to "open up".
One of them wrote his thoughts and composed them as well, and he has a song about "what he feels like". He's willing to qualify to any "wanted" add and has frightening sexual-homosexual openness. Another has a surprising monologue telling about his neighbor, a holocaust refugee, who's driving him crazy, (he's a dog's coiffeur, not a real profession..) and eventually he breaks into her apartment confronts her, (he doesn't really believe she's a refugee, just a crazy lonely woman), and even kisses her. The two amusing male actors are Itzik Golan and Yuval Abramovitch, but I don’t know which one is which. The other woman, (Efrat Arnon), won't participate in the release exercise but she reveals an internet affair she has with another man, who finishes every sentence with a smiley icon, (emoticon – the international computer icon for emotion)."smiley" prefers masochistic sex while the lady enjoys the sadistic kind. Finally the hostess, who's the craziest of them all, turns into a caracal, (a wild cat) only looking for a male caracal to mate with. Even with the "y-generation" it all comes down to sex.
It is an amusing hour along with six (the play writer - Eyal Weiser, the director – Alon Cohen and the four actors) talented people.
Ha'aretz Newspaper | Michael Hendelzaltz
Etgar Keret's surrealistic imagination influences the younger generation of playwrights.
The performance of "Pipes" at the Chan Theater brings Etgar Keret back to center stage, and it's a welcome return indeed. The stage is no stranger to Keret's work. At the beginning of his career, he wrote a parody musical "The Entebbe Operation – The Musical", which won first prize at the Akko Festival. Another of his endeavors in theater was at the end of the 90's with Uri Hochman's excellent production of "Missing Kissinger", which won first prize at Theatroneto. But since then, Keret's relations with the theater have gone slack, and it's a pity it took so many years to bring his work back to the stage, because there's something very theatrical about his surrealistic-comics-like imagination.
If we look beyond the direct adaptation of his works, we can see that Keret has also had a profound influence on the younger generation of writers, manifested in several intriguing fringe plays. One of these spiritual sons is Boaz Debbie, whose "Hitler, the Robot, and the Knife" won first prize at last year's Akko Festival. Debbie writes in a childish-comics-like macabre that is reminiscent of Keret's fantastical world. His heroes are children who are slightly odd, slightly different, whose heightened sensitivity exposes them to the falsity and terror in the world of adults.
Another writer to follow in Keret's footsteps is Eyal Weiser, who wrote the play Shufra, currently running at Tmuna Theater. It's Weiser's second play after the promising "And Nothing More (Vetu Lo)", which played at Tmuna two years ago. There his talent was eminent in writing hilarious and far-fetched monologues by grotesque characters whose opinions cross all acceptable moral lines, including a character who years for the Holocaust.
In the new play there are similar monologues performed by four strange characters convened for a consciousness workshop. The workshop is begun by an enthusiastic guide who tries to engage the audience in dialogue. This marks the direction of the entire evening, which is an amusing but futile attempt to create contact. Later, she gives the other three characters the stage, each of them turning out to have a different type of deviation or secret. Eventually one of the characters performs a lengthy monologue which is presented as a kind of nighttime radio confession, and speaks about the connection between compassion and butter (a pun in Hebrew).
Like many of the pieces, here too there is the feeling that beyond wit, there is no real message about loneliness, because like many of Keret's heroes, Weiser's characters are also incapable of expressing their distress. They live in a detached virtual world, and as the play's subtitle hints, "The Home of the Confused Generation". It is primarily a critique of an entire generation which would rather sit back and fantasize.
A decade ago, culture critic Gadi Taub wrote a book about the young Israeli culture, where he defined Keret and his contemporaries as leaders of the depressed rebellion – a rebellion trying to distance itself from the political and social spheres, but in order to so creates a detached world, ostensibly a childish one, which is parodic at heart. Weiser and Debbie's heroes all come from the same depressed world described by Taub, but unlike Keret's characters, they cannot even dream about a happy people's place called "Hubeza". In their childish imagination, there is no escape from emptiness.
Yediot Achronot | Shay Bar Yaakov