Tag Archives: Razia Israely

Review The Dentist, performed by Razia Israely by Pilar Perez – 9 May 2012

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The Dentist is not an easy play to watch. Not an easy play to listen to, either. Or to feel. I would imagine it is also not an easy one to perform. But it is really worth the effort. 

 

As a one woman show, the whole weight of the performance falls onto Razia’s shoulders. With just the help of the lighting and the music, Razia manages to keep the attention of the audience during the seventy minutes that the play lasts. The audience has to play its part too, as it is sometimes difficult to let yourself open up to the story. 

 

Gideon Greif’s book -“We wept without tears”- gathering the testimonies of several Jewish sonderkommando from Auschwitz, struck and inspired Raiza. She decided to write, together with Chaim Marin, and out of the interviews with the daughters of three of the sonderkommando men, the particular story of Rosie, the daughter of The Dentist’s working at crematorium No.2, a Jew from Salonika, and her family. 

 

Rosie’s monologue to her dead father takes us through their relationship with flashbacks into their past. As the story evolves, we start understanding the background of her dad and its effect on himself and Rosie’s whole family. And how love and hate can walk hand by hand and how terrible the consequences of such a horrendous past can be. 

 

Razia’s performance throughout the entire play goes from emotional to shocking, sometimes even funny, and leaves a kind of unsettled feeling, as good plays often do. The audience was moved and the applause was long. 

 

The subsequent questions and answers session simply enriched the play in many different aspects. Razia shared her conversations with the daughters she interviewed and the way she built her play from pieces of their different lives, including her own. The consciousness of the reality in the story can not be other than perturbing.  

 

Furthermore, Razia’s purpose of educate and make new generations aware of this part of our history, gives the play an undeniable extra value. 

 

Seen 9 May 2012 in the Paradijs Theatre – Koninklijke Schouwburg – The Hague

 

 

 

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The Dentist – a virtuoso performance – review by Jessica Maxwell

‘De stilte des doods’ rises above the din in The Dentist

The traditional Dodenherdenking commemoration in Dam Square of two minutes of “stilte”, or silence, expanded into new spaces and modes for reflection and remembrance this year via the Theatre Na de Dam festival. This Wednesday marked both the Dutch Memorial Day for World War II’s dead and the second year of the festival. The festival’s mission to
use theatre as a site of collective memory and empathy was bolstered by the Dutch premiere of Razia Israely’s The Dentist at the CREA TheatreMs. Israely’s one woman stage adaption of Dr. Gideon Greif’s collection of testimonies from Auschwitz, We Wept Without Tears, reconciles the need to confront this history and the “stilte” surrounding it for the play’s protagonist, Rosie, and audience.

Originally shown in the creator’s native Israel, The Dentist has toured internationally since 2006 wth a production history that varies from showings in high schools and prisons to
critically acclaimed runs at the Edinburgh and Toronto Fringe festivals. A truly remarkable aspect of Ms. Israely’s performance is how eloquently it echoes whatever context in which it is played. In the case of its one night call in Amsterdam, Rosie’s process of reconciliation with her recently deceased father, an Auschwitz survivor from Salonika, Greece, parallels Dodenherdeking’s process of reconciling contemporary Holland’s relationship to its past. Strikingly, both The Dentist and the commerations at Dam Square utilize silence as their mode to come to new understandings.

Take away the glossy pageantry, the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the Queen, and at the core of the Memorial Day services in the Dam, are two minutes of not only the silence, but consuming stillness. During the moment of “stilte”, the normally inhospitable square, a congested thoroughfare that is impossible to traverse without being assaulted by a din of conversations in every language, blaring music from street performers and being jostled by every mode of transportation imaginable, is transfixed into a space of hushed calm.

Rosie seeks this same transformation in her own life and in her relationship with her estranged father, Papa, whose past in the concentration camp she has only a cursory knowledge of. The reconciliation and stillness she needs can only be achieved through forgiveness and understanding although first the cacophony must be endured. The text, also written by Ms. Israely in conjunction with Chaim Marin, is elegantly constructed and takes on its weighty issues of the Holocaust, post traumatic stress disorder and abusive behavior towards children and women, with subtlety and aplomb. These issues, so often misappropriated in artistic representations and writ large in misguided attempts to convey their importance, are instead laid bare and internalized by Ms. Israely. In a virtuoso performance she portrays the entire ensemble of the story as she effortlessly shifts between characters including adult Rosie recollecting at her father’s graveside, to the wonderfully impish youthful Rosie, to Rosie’s mother,  grandmother and brother, Jules, and of course, as the inscrutable Papa. The vocality and physicality of the performance are astounding. How one actress so completely fills an almost bare stage without the aid of any sort of technology, aside from the occasional
soundscape, is admirable.  This admiration becomes something akin to astonishment when one considers the proliferation of multimedia in theatre, particularly as a crutch in the
monodrama genre.

Without any onstage assistance, be it man or mechanical, Ms. Israely frequently portrays the characters on both ends of an argument, in one turn she is terrorized seven year old Rosie, in the next she is Papa, enacting the terror during one of his rages. The richness and fullness of the performance, the humanity and relatability of characters, in spite of its challenging thematics, lies not only in the quality of the acting but also in the craftsmanship of the story. Poignantly when Ms. Israely portrays an adult Jules who can no longer cope with caring for his aged father, she takes on the same tambour and mannerism of Papa from earlier scenes. Minutiae of the story are merely glimpsed for a fleeting moment and then reappear later culminating in the development of a character arc that brings the audience, alongside Rosie, to a deeper understanding of Papa. Ultimately though it is Rosie’s choice as an adult to gain more knowledge about Papa’s time during World War II by seeking out his old friend who was also in Auschwitz, Henri. The knowledge she gains is not only information about the
horrors her father endured. Rosie also learns one secret Henri insists her father must tell her. Perhaps just as importantly in Henri and his daughter she finds their doppelgangers; as Henri’s daughter says to her, “I don’t know what’s worse, my father’s story or not knowing like you.”

The Dentist’s rapid denouement and gentle conclusion was greeted with a brief stillness from the audience before the applause began, my second moment of silence of that evening. In this short quiet I heard the older Dutch couple behind me sniffling. When the house lights came up it was revealed that they were indeed crying, severely contradicting my conception of the stoic Dutch attitude towards public displays of emotion. Non-native speakers of any language can easily ascertain the literal translation of a word from friends, books or the small miracle that is Google translation; the difficult part comes when attempting to understand the meaning of the word, its nuances and underlying implications in a wider context. This is by no means a revelatory notion, but my coming to understanding of the Dutch “stilte”, and the release that can come from it, was a personal revelation delivered by the performance of Razia Israely.

The Dentist has further showings in Den Haag on May, 11& 12 at Koninklijke Schouwburg (Royal Theatre) – Het Paradijs.

By Chaim Marin and Razia Israely; Performed by Razia Israely;
Adapted and directed by Malka Marin; Inspired by Dr. Gideon Greif’s book We wept without tears; First performed at the Holon Theatre, Israel, 6 March 2006;
Dutch premiere at CREA Theatre, Amsterdam, 4 May 2011