The Holy Land Experience
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
December 5, 2011
Did you know that there is a theme park in Orlando, Florida called The Holy Land Experience that re-creates for visitors life in Israel at the time of Jesus Christ?
I didn't; that's just one thing I learned in Martin Dockery's new solo show, which is also called The Holy Land Experience, and which plays just two more times at the Kraine Theatre. If you are a fan of storytelling and if you are interested in a more thoughtful and visceral re-creation of a man's experience in the Holy Land than perhaps that provided in a theme park, you will want to take this show in.
Dockery is a marvelous storyteller and solo actor; his earlier shows Wanderlust, The Surprise, and The Bike Trip are exemplars of his particular art form. In The Holy Land Experience, he takes us not only to the Orlando faux-Holy Land but also to the real one; his trip to the theme park was literally preparation, a kind of research, for his journey to Israel shortly thereafter. He visits Jerusalem, where he sees the ruins of the ancient Jewish temple; and Bethlehem, where he spends Christmas Eve with a Christian Palestinian family and visits the Church of the Nativity; and Hebron, where he goes to Abraham's tomb, which is surrounded on one side by a mosque and on the other by a synagogue (because he's an American Catholic, he is allowed by the authorities to go to both of these temples). Dockery is a remarkable witness, and a strikingly objective one, so that we see and hear the remarkable things that he does, unfettered by judgment or interpretation. The Holy Land Experience, like his earlier shows, is an awesome travelogue, and it's also an exploration of a questing soul: Dockery doesn't seem to know what he expected to find when he went to all these landmark locations of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, but the wonder and joy that he experiences contemplating these places and the people inhabiting them is genuine and rewarding.
The Holy Land Experience is filled with wry observation and intelligent questioning, and in its quirky way it's as much about the "true meaning of Christmas" as the best takes on Dickens's Carol.