Compass Theatre, formerly 6th @ Penn, continues
their Resilience of the Spirit Festival with a youth production of Glyn
O’Malley’s Paradise – a look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through
the eyes of two teenage girls. It’s inspired by a true event that occurred when
the lives of two seventeen-year-old girls crossed paths, an Israeli named
Rachel Levy and a Palestinian named Ayat al-Akhrase. And, in this case, it’s
directed by the seventeen-year-old director and founder of Broadway Kids of San
Diego, Alice Cash.
In the play, Sarah is the Israeli girl who has recently
moved back to Israel from America with her mother, Shoshana. They live in an
Israeli settlement, Shoshana determined to claim their right to the land in the
disputed territory, haunted by an encounter years before when a Palestinian had
told her that they would push the Israelis into the sea. But Shoshana is also
acutely aware of the increased danger that surrounds them, and is insistent
that Sarah be careful. Sarah, meanwhile, is unhappy in her new life in Israel
until she comes across a project she wants to do – a photo exhibit called Paradise
featuring her photos with commentary by Palestinians, hoping to find common
ground and a bridge to understanding.
Not far away, though living under starkly different
circumstances, is Fatima. Her father works in the Israeli settlement, and many
of her neighbors see her family as traitors. Her friend and cousin Omar,
recently returned for a visit after moving to America, encourages her and her
family to go with them to America so she can pursue her art. But her brother
has fallen under the sway of the militant Bassam who sees violence as the way
out of the impoverished Palestinian territories.
Charlotte Ostrow is Sarah, giving her a very real
feel as she gets moody over her new life in Israel away from her friends,
brightens when she finally has a project that inspires her, flirts with a
soldier, and shares good mother-daughter friction and tenderness with her mom
Shoshana (Dana Hooley, who jumped into the role over the final weeks,
expertly portraying the woman worried for her daughter and for her people).
Fatima is played by Gabriela Espinal who gives an
exceptional performance as the young woman who would like to pursue her dreams
and play with Omar (Daniel Myers good as a concerned, likable, and
in-love Omar), but the pressures of her world threaten to drive her to fear.
And worse. Her emotions, from playfulness to fear to hatred, are palpable. The
script itself has a weak point, when the prime motivating event is over a
character we’ve never seen and scarcely heard about. But Gabriela’s reaction to
the words from Bassam (Ryan Murphy as a creepy and more than slightly
crazed militant) is riveting enough to make us believe her reaction is real,
and that her life will never be the same.
Director Alice Cash has clearly focused on both
sides of the two converging stories, giving us a good look at the justifiable
fears and angers that can lead to such events – stories that teach us much more
than the short glimpses we get on the evening news.
July 31 - August 3, 2008
National Youth Theatre
~ Cast ~
Fatima: Gabriela Espinal
Sarah: Charlotte Ostrow
Bassam: Ryan Murphy
Omar: Daniel Myers
Shoshana: Dana Hooley
Director: Alice Cash
Stage Manager: Keegan Porter