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New Jersey by Bob Rendell

An Exceptionally Smart and Rewarding Thriller About the Mossad, a Would-be Israeli Arab Terrorist, and his English Bride

Also see Bob's reviews of Thoroughly Modern Millie and Noir


Ezra Barnes, Michael Gabriel Goodfriend
and Amy Griffin

Israeli security has thwarted a terrorist attempt to place a bomb on an El-Al flight bound from London to Israel. Dov, a veteran Mossad agent alternately interrogates Ali Said, an Israeli Arab not yet out of his twenties, and Eileen Finney, his pregnant, somewhat older English fiancιe who was prevented from boarding an El Al flight with a bomb hidden in her possession.

The Mossad interrogations along with Dov's narration constitute in its entirety the extraordinarily lucid and insightful new one-act espionage thriller The English Bride. Playwright Lucille Lichtblau was inspired to write this play by a failed 1986 attempt to bomb an El AL flight out of London.

As Dov manipulates Ali and Eileen in his efforts to ferret out information, author Lucille Lichtblau provides us with a brilliant lesson in interrogation tactics which is worthy of inclusion in the training manuals of Homeland Security. Lichtblau has not undertaken to draw a black and white picture of heroes and villains. Instead, she utilizes their interrogations to create a complex and extraordinarily convincing portrait of three troubled and troubling individuals who have inexorably gotten themselves into a maelstrom of historic proportions by painstakingly exploring the lives, influences, thought processes and/or behaviors of each of them.

Lichtblau understands and humanely explores the motivations that can turn someone into a terrorist However, essential to the value and truth of her play, Lichtblau doesn't for a moment even contemplate the foul notion that there is anything remotely resembling moral equivalency between terrorists who would commit mass murder and those who strive to prevent them from succeeding.

The honesty, fairness and rationality of The English Bride stands as an antidote to and indictment of the fevered, simplistic, and dishonest agitprop theatre aimed at delegitimizing Israel that has become the cause of some left leaning theatres and writers.

Director Carl Wallnau has starkly and intimately staged the play on three small squares set at different levels in a square corner of his flexible black box second stage with seating on the adjoining other two sides. Wallnau wisely has his three actors on stage throughout the play, which facilitates the unity and smooth flow of the play when Lichtblau dramatizes the conflicting accounts of events provided by Ali and Eileen.

Employing a quietly soft spoken manner, Ezra Barnes imbues Dov with the intelligence, toughness, skill and steely self confidence that one would expect from a master Mossad agent. His intonation of Lichtblau's dialogue in Hebrew-accented English is most compelling. Michael Gabriel Goodfriend perfectly captures the self justifying, guarded and manipulative ways of a victimizer who, certainly at some level, is also a victim. Amy Griffin exquisitely limns Eileen. A lovelorn hotel barmaid until being swept off her feet by Ali, Griffin's Eileen fully engages our sympathies without overtly striving to do so.

Lucile Lichtblau and her three actors performing under the directorial hand of Carl Wallnau have placed on stage dimensional and involving characters, each one of who is worthy of his or her own play. So, we should be more than grateful that Centenary Stage Company has brought them to us together in The English Bride.

At the conclusion of the performance, I was amazed to realize that I had a tear in my eye as a result of having felt the potentially transformative power of The English Bride's truth and intelligence.

(The English Bride was the winner of Centenary Stage Company's 2011 Susan Glaspell Award competition for plays by women. It was a nominee for the prestigious Steinberg Award of the American Theatre Critics Association. The Centenary Stage production is one of three separate and distinct "rolling world premiere" productions of the play supported by the National New Play Network. The Centenary Stage Company production of The English Bride with its Centenary cast intact is scheduled to open in October at 59E59 in New York City.)

The English Bride played through April 21, 2013, at the Edith Bolte Kutz Theatre (Black Box) at the Lackland Center on the campus of Centenary College, 715 Grand Avenue, Hackettstown, New Jersey 07840. Box Office: 908-9794297; online: www.centenarystageco.org.

The English Bride by Lucile Lichtblau; directed by Carl Wall

Cast:
Dov………………………………….Ezra Barnes
Ali Said………….Michael Gabriel Goodfriend
Eileen Finney……………………….Amy Griffin


- Bob Rendell


Photo: Photos by Bob Eberle



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