This month the Bytebrothers are delighted to present a superbly written Broadway play review.  This rant is particularly important to post on-line since the producers have elected to keep this play in perpetual "preview" status, thus preventing mainstream publications from offering reviews of their own.  The reasoning for the producers' choice is clear; they know the reviews will be universally negative and that this cheap masquerade would be flamed out of existence as fast as you can say "dark theater."

Those of you familiar with my rants will recognize this writing as not my own - it's not vulgar enough!  And frankly, this subject deserves all the vulgarity, vitriol and vindictiveness at our disposal.  But the only liberty I have taken with the author's work is to entitle this page "Broadway Bullshit".  That having been said, we bring you...

SIXTEEN WOUNDED

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.

  1. His boyhood home (a 12-room mansion in Jerusalem) was confiscated by the Jews. This is historically impossible, even if there had been such a home at one time. A good deal of Arab property was confiscated in 1948 when Israel became a state; the Arab owners abandoned it. Why did they do this? Because their leaders promised them that if they refused to cooperate with the new state, eventually they would be part of an army which would retake the country, drive the Jews into the sea, and regain all the lost property. They were housed in temporary refugee camps, where most of them still live. Mahmoud and his brother, who are obviously in their twenties, could not possibly have lived in this home even if it had existed.
  2. The implication is made and never refuted that the Israelis instituted the refugee camps, forced the Arabs to leave Israel and live in the camps, and are running them. This is absolutely untrue; they were begun by and are run by Arabs. At one point, Mahmoud compares them to the German concentration camps and this is the only time that Hans (or anyone else) contradicts him. Everything else that is said is allowed to stand. (And while we're talking about the refugee camps, does anyone ever ask why the residents of these camps haven't been resettled or repatriated in more than 50 years? The answer, of course, is simple. These camps are the prime source for angry anti-Jewish and anti-Western fanatics for the lunatic fringe to use in their terrorist plans.)
  3. Mahmoud's brother goes on to say that his mother is dead; she was arrested and "tortured to death" by the Israelis. He also speaks of other Arab prisoners who are not just mistreated, but brutally tortured. There is no proof of any kind, no story backing up these assertions, they are simply spoken as truth. No one refutes these statements. I know that the Israelis are not perfect, but I've never heard of them torturing women to death. It would have been all over the media, especially the Arab press; they certainly love to vilify the Jews. If anyone loves to torture, it's the Arabs. Look at Fallujah... If this had happened in Israel, there would have been an immediate government investigation and the perpetrators would have been arrested. This has happened in the past. But does anyone hear the Iraqis apologizing for their brutality against foreigners, or any government officials investigating?
  4. Mahmoud's brother also tells him about his younger brother being arrested "just for throwing a stone at a tank"; his father, who was as innocent as the day is long and always good to the Jewish neighbors, being killed by the Israelis for no reason; and so on. It is obviously Mahmoud's sacred duty to avenge his family by bombing this synagogue. Actually, he's thinking of taking out Hans while he's at it, but eventually changes his mind.
  5. Among the other complaints and insults to the family honor are the claims of the brother that they were forced to work for the Israelis, and left in the camps to starve. (Of course he also says he'd rather starve than work for the Israelis... this doesn't seem to strike anyone as contradictory.)

    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.

Update 4/16/2004:  After countless weeks of previews, "Sixteen Wounded" finally did open.  The mainstream reviews were universally "blah", yet nobody had the nerve to point out the conspicuous bias evident in this play.  Perhaps they are all still stinging from the fallout following the negative reviews of "The Passion of Christ."

 


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