Israelis and Palestinians on Stage, Don Shirley for LA Stage Times

ISRAELIS AND PALESTINIANS ON STAGE: In LA, we don’t see many plays about Israel, the Palestinian Territories or their dispute. Some readers may recall my disappointment that one of the few plays we have seen recently on this subject is the slight, superficial, one-sided and American-centric solo show My Name is Rachel Corrie, which the Theatricum Botanicum produced last summer.

Now, however, we are blessed with Valerie Dillman’s Sarah’s War, a new play that fictionalizes the same Rachel Corrie story (Rachel becomes “Sarah”) but presents it from the viewpoint of many more people.

The list includes Sarah (Abica Dubay), of course, and introduces us to her fellow volunteers for the International Solidarity Movement. One of them in particular (Marley McClean), while sharing Sarah’s opinions, treats her with some disdain. We briefly meet the Palestinians Sarah thinks she is defending – but even they (especially a young woman played by Dina Simon) have mixed feelings about what she’s doing and why.

Then we also meet the Israeli soldier (Will Rothhaar) whose bulldozer strikes Sarah, his commanding officer (Avner Garbi), and one of his friends who’s a peace activist. Meanwhile, back in the USA, we get to know and appreciate the perspectives of Sarah’s relatives – her mother (Terry Davis) who supports her, her uncle (Allan Wasserman) and aunt (Ann Bronston) and sister (Adria Tennor Blotta) who don’t – for somewhat different reasons, and her father (Lindsey Ginter) – who sits uncomfortably on the fence.

We feel the shock of the attacks on Israel that precipitated the Israeli army’s actions in Gaza, and we witness the harrowing conditions of life in Gaza while Israel strikes back.

In other words, Dillman sees the complexity of the situation, and she uses all that complexity and ambivalence to intensify the drama. Matt McKenzie’s staging thoroughly respects and delineates the play’s many layers and even manages to pull off a coda that, on paper, might seem somewhat precious.

Although the play was developed at Pacific Resident Theatre, this is a production of Freedom Theatre West. The producer Jordan Elgrably, who led a talkback after the performance of Sarah’s War I saw,  was also on a talkback panel after the performance of My Name Is Rachel Corrie that I saw at the Theatricum last summer. Both talkbacks became somewhat heated, with partisans of varying viewpoints speaking out. Yet in contrast to the Rachel Corrie talkback, the talkback after Sarah’s War wasn’t nearly as interesting as the play that preceded it.

Sarah’s War, Hudson Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Thur-Sat 8 pm, Sun 3 pm. Closes March 18. 310-657-5511.

***All Sarah’s War production photos by John P. Flynn