Sometimes, fate surprises us. We learn and grow in the most surprising ways.
In the play The Band’s Visit (based on the film of the same name) a band from Egypt is scheduled to play at the opening of an Arab Cultural Center in Israel. A mistake is made and they take the bus to the wrong city. The locals take them in for the night. The leader of the band, Tewfiq (DARIUSH KASHANI) beds down for the night with Dina (KATRINA LENK), the owner of a small cafe. What starts out as a night of hospitality turns into a friendship and a conversation about being human and the experiences we have.
I loved this show. It absolutely deserved the 10 Tony Awards that were conferred on the show by the Tony voters. What makes the show interesting is that it has the running time of a play (about 90 minutes), but it has the narrative structure and character arc of a musical (using song and dance to tell the story). I read somewhere that the show stands out because it speaks to the heart and the intelligence of the audience, instead of appealing to the audience’s baser instincts when it comes to Broadway shows.
But what makes the show stand out for me is the fact that it speaks to the idea that even when two groups of people who are known not to like each other, individuals on opposite sides of the conflict can find common ground and perhaps friendship.
I absolutely recommend it.
The Band’s Visit is playing at the Ethel Barrymore Theater at 243 W 47th Street in New York City. Check the website for ticket prices and showtimes.
Tomorrow night begins the Jewish holiday of Passover.
The holiday is celebrated by the Seder, which is both a meal and a retelling of how our ancestors went from being slaves in Egypt to being free to live and openly practice their faith.
For me, Passover is more than just an elaborate meal with a story mixed in, which is then followed by eating a modified version of the Atkins diet for a week. While I am very proud and open about my faith and the history of my people, I am far from being labeled as ba’al teshuva (someone who makes a choice to live a more religiously observant life). Passover is about my statement to not only the wider world, but to my creator that I am who I am when it comes to my faith and I proud of that faith.
It is also the story of overcoming what seems like impossible odds and remembering the injustices done to us. Human history is full of tales of injustice, hatred, destruction and murder. By remembering the injustices done to us, we are able to be more compassionate and understanding to those experiencing the same injustice and hatred today.
To those who celebrate, have a Happy Passover.
We all know the story of Moses. He is the infant son of Hebrew slaves living in Egypt. A rumor is spreading that among this new generation of sons born to the Hebrew slaves, one will grow up and free the slaves. Pharaoh sends his soldiers to kill all of the male infants. Yochoved is one of many women who has just brought another son into the world. Willing to do anything to save her son, she puts him in a basket and puts the basket in the Nile. The basket stops at the watery doorstep of the Egyptian princess, who raises the infant as her own. Years later, Moses experiences a crisis of faith and must discover who he is meant to be.
In 1998, The Prince Of Egypt premiered. The actors who lent their voices included Val Kilmer (G-d/Moses), Ralph Fiennes (Rameses) and Michelle Pfeiffer (Tzipporah).
This was a biblical movie done right, for several reasons.
First is that it reflected the rainbow of skin colors that exist in the Middle East, unlike the upcoming Exodus: Gods and Kings or the 1956 The Ten Commandments movie. Second is that there was a spiritual aspect to this movie. It was respectful of the biblical and religious aspect without becoming a spectacle or becoming a romanticized, Hollywoodized story that the 1956 movie is.
Biblical stories are tricky to transfer from the page to the screen. But this was done right.