The Human Scale
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
October 6, 2010
In The Human Scale, journalist Lawrence Wright explores one of the world's great pressure points, the Gaza Strip, home to more than a million Palestinians and site of decades of bitter strife and battle between their leaders (Hamas, Fatah) and the Israeli government. Wright presents what feels like very balanced coverage of issues and attitudes on both sides, and he provides plenty of context by recounting the history of the region, both ancient and recent. In about 90 minutes, The Human Scale offers those interested the opportunity to get up to speed about a subject that is bracingly important and too often taken for granted and/or minimized in American media. I know I learned a lot, and the format—he talks, we listen—is pretty effective considering the relatively low investment the audience is required to make. Those in search of a thorough overview of this issue will get what they are looking for by attending this event.
Those is search of a theatrical experience, however, will come away disappointed. The Human Scale is a lecture, not a play, and the drama critic in me feels compelled to say so. When the show was over, I wondered why Wright and his director Oskar Eustis hadn't striven to make their piece more dramatic and theatrical. I also noted that by calling a lecture a play, thus couching it in a layer of artifice, the natural impulse for discussion seemed to be mitigated. I would have found The Human Scale more rewarding if it were more conversational, more spontaneous, and followed by a talkback so that the audience could ask questions of someone who has so much specialized knowledge.
On his website, Wright has posted a link to an article in The New Yorker that covers much of the same information that's presented in The Human Scale.