A Play by Eliam Kraiem, starring Judd Hirsch
My friends and I love live theater, but we usually head for light, frothy entertainment. In fact, the last performance I attended before this was "The Producers," which is the type of show I prefer. Life is serious enough -- I don't go to the theater to become depressed. But here was a chance to see what was supposedly a good play, starring an actor who has a wonderful reputation, and at a discount price.
"Sixteen Wounded" is about Hans, a Jewish baker in Amsterdam in the early 1990s. He befriends Mahmoud, a young Palestinian Arab; gives him a job, teaches him how to bake. Mahmoud is on the run but won't give the reason to anyone. The first act lays the foundation of the story. The impression the audience gets of Mahmoud is that he is a tortured idealist. He doesn't want to be in Amsterdam, he wants to be back in Gaza, but is forbidden to return. He falls in love with Nora, a Dutch dancer, and soon they are expecting a baby. He is still tortured by his past but is looking forward to a future with Nora. What a sympathetic character he is: Loving, affectionate, funny, wanting his old life back but willing to work hard for his new one.
Hans, on the other hand, is a "nebbish." He's a nice guy. He has taken Mahmoud in and treated him like a son. But basically he is a coward and a liar. He too has run away from a former life -- but his former life was assisting the Germans to bury bodies in a concentration camp, and he ran away hoping his parents would never find out. (They didn't; they perished in the camp.) Now the fact that he must have been a very small boy at the time he did this is never fully brought out, just that he has run away and never wants anyone to find out what he has done.
Nora reveals to Hans what Mahmoud has told her: He's on the run because he bombed a bus in Jerusalem and many people were killed. What is Hans' reaction? Why, give the kid a chance. He's trying to make a new life. After all, most of us are running away from something... Hans even promises Mahmoud to be a sort of "godfather" to this baby, and learns a Muslim prayer to say to the baby when it's born. He kneels to say this prayer -- something that an observant Jew would never do.
At this point my friends and I were wondering where this was going. It seemed to be very pro-Palestinian, but we thought that in the second act, there would be an epiphany of some kind on someone's part. There would be objectivity. Fairness. Someone would point out that there is no excuse for bombing a bus, and that the Israelis and other Jews had something to say on their behalf, too. So we came back for the second act.
In Act Two, Mahmoud's brother arrives and gives him a briefcase containing a bomb. Mahmoud is chastised for befriending a Jew (a Jew pig, actually), for marrying an infidel, and for forgetting his mission in life. He must defend the honor of his family by bombing a synagogue -- when it is full of worshippers, of course. The brother gives him all the reasons.
Hans, the gutless schlemiel, finds Mahmoud wiring the clock to the bomb at 4:00am in the bakery. Hans tries to change Mahmoud's mind; he convinces Mahmoud that he loves him like a son, even enough to renounce his own faith, and demonstrates this by tearing down the mezuzah from the door and throwing it in the garbage. Mahmoud leaves, but not before rescuing the mezuzah from the garbage and respectfully putting it back on the door. Remaining, in other words, the really sympathetic character, even with a bomb in his hands.
In the final scene, there is a tremendous explosion that shakes the theater. Mahmoud has bombed the synagogue. But you see, he is still a sympathetic character because (a) he has avenged his family honor, and (b) he has retained his own idealism by making it a suicide bombing.
So the bottom line is that the young Arab is a wonderful person who has been forced by the Israelis to commit justifiable murder and then kill himself. The older Jew is a very bland "nice guy" in some ways, but a coward, a liar, and unwilling even to stand up for his own faith.
The playwright, Mr. Kraiem, is a young American Jew. Mr. Hirsch is, I believe, Jewish, but even if he is not, both of them should be ashamed for being a part of this. It has been said that Jews are frequently their own worst enemies. To be realistic, they're not the worst enemies... but with friends like this, the Jewish state and the Jewish people don't need enemies.
Don't spend your money on tickets for this trash; you are only supporting its continued run on Broadway. The play is pro-Palestinian propaganda bullshit, lies and innuendoes masquerading as theater, and everyone involved in its production should be embarrassed to admit it. It is Mr. Hirsch's name and reputation that is attracting audiences to this play so in a way he is even more responsible for disseminating its hateful philosophy. I am surprised and amazed that he has done this. Has he no shame?
You will note that the play has been running for several weeks "in previews." When a play is in previews, the critics do not review it because the idea is that the producers should have a chance to work out the flaws before it actually opens. I predict that this play will never open officially, because the producers don't want it to be reviewed. My friends and I filled out Zagat opinion forms outside the theater after the play; I doubt that Zagat is bound by the preview agreement since it was just a public opinion survey. I hope they publish the results very soon, so that possibly other theatergoers will not make the mistake we made.