‘The Holy Land’ – HERE Arts Center

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By Marcina Zaccaria

 

‘Holy Land’ is about a city under siege. Careful friendships are forged as soldiers are dying and bombs explode at nearby houses.

The script by Mohamed Kacimi, who is a poet, playwright, and journalist based in Paris, neither glorifies war nor paints a false picture. As visiting friends share intimate conversations and lovers find themselves in peril, all of the characters continue forward.

Kacimi’s script is deeply poetic. In the text, the main characters find freedom beyond devastation. They discuss getting through checkpoints and find strength through chaos. It is an objective world about strife and tragedy. The characters aren’t so much hoping to make sense of the war, but live through it. Though they are often cool and aloof, they are deeply entangled in their current relationships, and try to create something better.

The actors do a fine job of defining who they are in the midst of the chaos. Jojo Gonzalez plays Yad, Ana Gross is Alia, Sean Carvajal is Amin, Pia Haddad is Imen, and Gil Perez Abraham is Ian. They are a bit seamless as an ensemble. Though many of the scenes in the play are disquieting, the actors do manage to create a world where we can look at the nature of war through their experiences. There are moments that are funny, and other moments that are sad and desolate.

The play is not so disjointed or so nebulous that we cannot see. Language about horses and crows and dust reminds us that we are in a heightened world where anything can happen. A cat named Jesus takes refuge with its owner in the house that is the main location for the action of the play. All of the actors are quite prepared to lead the audience through the drama, and express what it is like to survive in the war-torn land.

‘Holy Land’ is uncommon as it describes how people claim the land they are standing on. Who has the ground is central to the drama. Director Tracy Cameron Francis does a fine job of letting us know who the characters are and how they change throughout the play. There is careful attention to the staging, but perhaps the play could have seen served by the kind of poetry in movement that was evident in the text.

The design is cohesive. Charles Coes designed a soundscape where bombs are constantly exploding in the background. Sheryl Liu, who designed the set, worked with lighting designer Miguel Angel Valderrama to create a set where light shines through textured hangings on the walls. The use of shadow and light is impressive. Costume Design by Lisa Renee Jordan is contemporary and effortless.

‘Holy Land’ has already had performances in Paris, Vienna, Prague, London, Milan, Jerusalem, Rio de Janeiro, Stockholm, and Hamburg. The show plays at HERE Arts Center, 165 Sixth Avenue. ‘Holy Land’ and will be running until May 10 at 7PM. Tickets can be purchased at http://here.org/ or by calling 212.352.3101.

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