Somewhere in Between
nytheatre.com review by Yuval Boim
July 24, 2005
With Somewhere In Between, now featured at the Fresh Fruit Festival, playwright Ronny Almog attempts to address elusive questions about human sexual identity. An ensemble of actors enacts different situations evoked by questions such as: What sex is god? What is a man? A woman? And do I have to choose? Through a collage of different vignettes—scenes, movement sequences, and monologues addressed to the audience, some set to original music provided by Doron Shalom on the piano and Udi Berner on the viola, the ensemble embarks on a philosophical inquiry into the pain of ambivalence in gender identification.
It is a difficult feat. Most of the text is an absurdist play on the meanings of words used to describe gender. While at moments successful, the mere vastness of the theme often seems to take over. It is difficult for us to relate to it. Perhaps rooting the action in character and location would make it more accessible. It is as if we don’t know where the ground is. I suspect that this effect is not far from the intentions of director Issi Mamanov and his team. We are to understand that gender labels affixed to people are meaningless in the face of individual internal chaos. But unfortunately that chaos is not fully realized for us on stage in ordered theatricality. We are left gazing a bit confused at the wistful (and well-executed) backdrop of blue sky mottled with white clouds, designed by Michaela Lika.
What is clearer, however, is the generosity of the actors. Despite a language barrier—they are all Israelis—they are able to transmit to us, viscerally somehow, their enthusiasm about the theme. In fact, after the bows they volunteer to perform a segment in the original Hebrew. The writing in Hebrew is funny and witty and the actors are free to bring it to life. I imagine that the general vagueness described above is due, in part, to a poor translation. We get a glimpse of the life of the piece in another moment. Unexpectedly, Almog steps onto the stage from the audience, sits in a pool of light, and almost seized with emotion speaks the words of a poem. The air in the theatre thickens—suddenly specific and haunting. We watch as a person dares to speak to us about questions that, whether we know it or not, we all share about what it means to be engendered.