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There’s a new Israeli in town! Her name is Meital Dohan and with John Ventimiglia,meital & gian: happy together? she’s co-starring in the second American production of Scottish playwright Anthony Neilson’s Stitching, opening February 26 at the Lillian Theater in Los Angeles, California. As I encourgaed New Yorkers to do last Spring,  I hope our new found Angeleno friends will support live performance and check it out. This advice might surprise some on both coasts, as I’d not written about the theater much until Stitching revitalized me, Swope.

What the hell happened? Details differ according to the teller but one word is always the same: robots. Aeschylus with robots; Marlowe with robots; Goethe with robots; Büchner with robots; Ibsen with robots; Ionesco with robots— in short, Dear Reader, it came to pass that the last person to have this gig finally cared only to write about theatrical robots, no actors. Meital Dohan is not a robot, even if there are moments in Stitching where she doesn’t look entirely unlike an Israeli Lady Frankenstein.

sewn up!Credit for this is due many people, including the dark Scottish wit of Neilson, director Timothy Haskel & dramaturge, Annie Nocenti (yes, the journalist; see the now classic Gambling issue of Stop Smiling for many examples of her editorial talent, including Brian Berger’s profile of Nick Tosches). As with all great creation, however, there are wondesecret of his failurerments without answer in the megillah or Arthur Miller. Might Meital ever perform Bertolt Brecht at Young Israel of Flatbush? Hanoch Levin at Young Israel of Kensington? Sholem Aleichem at Young Israel of Midwood? Also, as a transgressive artist myself, I’d love to know if Meital still has black the strap-on she wore so well on Weeds a couple years ago— wow.

The Publisher, alas, asked none of these things. Intimidated? Playing opossum? Perhaps so. Shalom! —Lorraine Otsego, Theater Critic

The following was first published June 20, 2008, as “The Four Questions With Meital Dohan”

Brian Berger: In Brooklyn we think all people from Israel are badass cynical chainsmokers who curse a lot— all the secular Israelis at least. Any truth to this and if so, why might this be?

Meital Dohan: I am a badass cynical fake blonde and I like to curse a lot, so what the fuck are you talking about? And what the hell do you want?

Brian: As a young actor and writer growing up in Israel, who were some of your role models? What great Israeli writers, performers or directors should a rube from Brooklyn know, if they understand Hebrew, or can find a translation/subtitles?

Meital: My role models were Gena Rowlands, Federico Fellini, John Cassavetes, Ingmar Bergman, Bibi Andersson, Liv Ullmann, Giulietta Masina and Betty Boop. I was grateful to work with some of the greats in Isreal, among others, the director and writer Edna Mazia.

Brian: You’ve played The Bride in Federico Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding. Were you familar with his work before and— although Blood Wedding isn’t set here—Lorca’s time in New York? What are your favorite and least favorite things about living in the city?

Meital: I did Blood Wedding a few years ago. I love Lorca. My favorite thing about New York is the density and the thing that I hate the most is the density.

Brian: While Jews are historically known for their great humor, it seems bad politics and political correctness have obscured this a bit lately. First, do you think this is true and second, do you find there are differences in the Israeli and the New York sense of humor?

Meital: I think that Jews are still very funny. Look at me for instance. And I am a real Jew because I’m from Israel. And I do think that there is a difference between New York humor and Israeli humor, that’s why you probably won’t get this joke.

Brian: You’re about to open in Stitching, which got some grief when it premiered in Edinburgh in 2003. The Scots are pretty goddamn dark and funny themselves so it makes sense an Israeli woman would get the lead; was there anything that surprised or excited you about Anthony’s work as you’ve learned the role?

Meital: Everything about Anthony’s work is surprising and exciting. To play the lead in Stitching, here in New York, feels like walking on a tightrope. Some people will take the provocative nature of the play as it is and won’t look for the depth underneath. For me it is a very strong and sad love story, after all. And in a way, a human tragedy. Especially in this modern world when the term “love” is becoming more complex. The darkness in life is hard to look into.

purim style

Brian: One more sterotype about Israelis— besides the obvious facts ya’ll dig schnitzel (falafel for the vegetarians) and that those hot lady soldiers can seriously beat your ass if you cross ‘em— is that they love Leonard Cohen and hip-hop. (In fact, two of Brooklyn’s most dedicated hip-hop artists, Ill Bill and Necro, are blood brothers originally from Israel but grew up here, in the Glenwood Houses in Canarsie.) Is this correct, and what else does an Israeli actress/writer in exile enjoy listening to?

Meital: Radiohead, Diana Washington, Nina Simon and MGMT. I love America. I love waking up in New York City, staring at the Hudson River and thinking about Israel.

Stitching is playing now through April 5 at The Lillian Theater.

Lorraine Otsego grew up in Marine Park and today lives somewhere in South Brooklyn. A graduate of Edward R. Murrow High School, her last stage role was this past  Autumn in Harold Pinter’s Ashes to Ashes, at the Yellow Hook Playhouse in Bay Ridge.

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