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THEATER:Israeli play debuts at Playhouse

When “The Master of the House,” a dark comedy by Israeli playwright Shmuel Hasfari, mounts the stage of the Laguna Playhouse next week, it’ll be the first production in America of the play voted best in Israel for 2003.

It’s a direct result of the experience of Hasfari and his wife, actress Hana Azulai, who decided a few years ago to remodel their rented home, with predictable results.

“At first, we ordered new grass, and then decided to lay tiles,” the playwright recounts. “Then Hana suggested that, as long as we were at it, we ought to put a new kitchen in, too.”

Before long, “a friend of hers who’s an expert on renovations came over with a contractor and they walked around and told me what was coming down and what was going up,” Hasfari recounts. “At first, I didn’t see it as a threat. I consider myself a reasonable handyman, but when it comes to renovations, and things involving a lot of dust, I’m terrified.”

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Hasfari eventually called the house’s owner and proposed that they split the costs of renovation, and he agreed.

“I enjoyed it so much that it wasn’t until it was over that I realized what a formative event it was,” he recalls.

When the work was in progress, Hasfari began to write the first play in a trilogy which includes “Master of the House.” While Hasfari’s experience was merely a renovation, the experience of the play’s characters goes much deeper.

Hasfari is considered one of Israel’s leading playwrights. His works are controversial, due to the harsh image of Israeli society reflected in his plays.

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Richard Stein, the playhouse’s executive director staging “Master of the House,” notes that Hasfari has said “the humor, the irony, helps people deal better with their hidden fears” and it “uncovers and exposes fears and anxieties in people’s minds on several levels.”

“The Master of the House” begins previews Tuesday and opens March 31 for a month-long engagement, through April 29. Tickets may be reserved by calling the box office at (949) 497-2787.


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