The age-old adage proclaims that there is always light at the end of the tunnel, but as producers of this politically poignant performance explain, “In this tunnel, if there’s a light at the end — lock and load.”
Hailing from Israel, “In the Tunnel” (“Baminhara”) is a satirical take on a happenstance involving two Israeli soldiers who encounter two Palestinians while trapped underground. As the predicament forces the four participants to ride an emotional rollercoaster, those above ground experience a media circus customary of contemporary times.
“In the Tunnel” makes its Pittsburgh debut on Oct. 11 at the August Wilson Center (980 Liberty Ave.) and runs until Oct. 13. The four scheduled shows are part of the 2018 Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts and among a slate of offerings designed to expand audiences’ understandings, said Karla Boos, founder and artistic director of Pittsburgh’s Quantum Theatre and a guest curator of the festival.
“Artists all over the world are actively expressing their citizenship in a borderless ‘country’ of the mind and spirit — one that transcends national boundaries and resists xenophobia. Their works address their concerns head-on, but often in unexpected ways, expressing resistance to bleak political or social climates with startling beauty.”
“In The Tunnel is a stunning production that, once we saw it in Tel Aviv, we knew we had to bring to the Festival of Firsts,” reads some of the festival’s promotional material. “Not only is the story truly timely, but this is also a beautiful production that will look amazing on the stage of the August Wilson Center. The set features two levels — the lower level a recreation of one of the real tunnels running under the Israeli border; the upper level a high tech morning television studio.”
Directed by Irad Rubinstein, “In the Tunnel” is a play by Roee Chen and inspired by Danis Tanovic’s “No Man’s Land,” which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2001.
To date, “In the Tunnel” has garnered praise for its ability to humorously burrow uncomfortable situations.
“The creators of this play hold nothing sacred; they make fun of everyone,” writes Haaretz contributor Michael Handelzalts. “But if there is any difference, I would say that ‘In the Tunnel’ laughs with the young people trapped in the tunnel, who are paying with their lives but are also capable of laughing at themselves, and laughs at all the others: politicians, the media, religion, ideology and the audience.”
“Above and below ground, Chen’s brilliant, ironic, deliberately over-the-top satire ‘judges everybody’ — as Chen and Rubinstein write — and what happens, or not, forms the meat of the play. Rubinstein’s direction is fierce, precise, unrelenting and hilarious,” remarks Helen Kaye in a review for The Jerusalem Post.
“In the Tunnel” is a production of Gesher Theatre, a 1991 creation intended to bridge Russian and Israeli culture. Founded by Yevgeny Arye and a group of Russian actors, Gesher was at its inception “one of the few bilingual theatres in the world, staging every play both in Hebrew and in Russian,” according to Broadway World. “Today, Gesher Theatre performs solely in Hebrew, while still maintaining its close ties with the Russian culture and heritage.”
Over the years, Gesher has staged more than 60 productions and received numerous awards.
Noted for its talented theatrical artists, Gesher has delighted audiences internationally. In Pittsburgh, those familiar with “Fauda” (2015), “Hostages” (2013), “Homeland” (2011) or the nonpareil “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan” (2008) will recognize some faces. But as observers of “In the Tunnel” should discover, mining memories of “where do I know that actor from” doesn’t even scratch the surface of what this play provides. PJC