Theater review: ‘Via Dolorosa’ at the Missing Piece
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First produced in 1998 in London, David Hare’s Drama Desk Award-winning solo show, “Via Dolorosa,” is a fiercely intelligent account of his 1997 visit to the Middle East and his first-hand assessment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Of course, even though the protagonist is coyly referred to as “The Author” in the text, the play was written by Hare about Hare and originally starred Hare, so the substitution of another actor for a role so extremely personal in nature is a bit tricky. However, Southern California Jewish Repertory Theatre’s current production at the Missing Piece Theater in Burbank fortunately features transplanted Brit David Bryan Jackson, who, under the astute direction of Patricia Lee Willson, makes the piece very much his own in a performance of unwavering intensity and magnitude.
The problem lies not with Jackson’s protean performance, during which he subtly delineates several dozen characters, but in the text, which seems dated. Hare’s enduring anti-extremist viewpoint still resounds, but things change fast and mighty in the Middle East, and the fact that “Dolorosa” was written pre-9/11 undermines its historical relevance and relegates it to the realm of sociological curiosity.
As the Author wanders through the region, from Israeli towns to disputed settlements to Arab cities, he converses mostly with politicians, artists and scholars from both clashing cultures. These characters are certainly diverting, and a few even seem presciently aware of impending cataclysm, but with those few exceptions, Hare’s interlocutors are such a rarefied breed that their observations seem largely moot, facile musings by the elite. Would that educated, articulate individuals did hold more sway in that part of the world, but one fears the blood-dimmed tide has diluted the forces of truth and reason, a sad development that Hare could not fully grasp at the time. -- F. Kathleen Foley
“Via Dolorosa,” Missing Piece Theater, 2811 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturday, 3 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Nov. 7. $25. (800) 838-3006. www.brownpapertickets.com/event/124240. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.