Shows Worth Seeing:
Written and performed by Aaron Davidman
59 E. 59th St.
Wrestling Jerusalem is a documentary solo performance in the mold of Anna Deavere Smith’s Fires in the Mirror and Twilight: Los Angeles—that is, a work focused on a contemporary public controversy about which the performer conducted numerous interviews with a variety of interested parties and then impersonated them in performance. Aaron Davidman is a San Francisco-based actor who conducted his interviews during trips to Israel and the occupied territories dating back to 1993. Slender and earnest with thinning red hair and a goatee, he is a marvelous mimic who, wearing plain slacks and a light open-collared shirt, portrays (among many others) a Palestinian farmer whose land was severed by the “separation wall,” a rabbi enraged by Israeli militancy, a Palestinian woman who works for the U.N., an American expat turned West Bank settler, and an Israeli survivor of a suicide attack—a dizzying mosaic of political, personal and religious passions in conversational fragments.
Davidman is an intelligent editor whose choices and arrangements of speakers and topics bespeak enormous compassion and sensitivity to his subject’s complexity. His show will certainly accomplish its goal of generating empathy for different viewpoints regarding the stalemate. Interestingly, though, Davidson didn’t insert himself into the material as much as Smith and others have done into theirs. He relies mainly on character accuracy and an overall impression of objectivity, referring only rarely to himself and the impact of his presence on his preserved conversations. That is not a damning point. He paints himself as an extraordinary listener and flatters us with the suggestion that we could be that too if we tried. The wrinkle is that you just can’t help wondering about the conversations that didn’t work out so well for him, and whether those experiences of personal impasse might possibly have added yet another valuable layer to this wonderfully nuanced piece about political impasse.