We’ve all seen the photos and footage of the aftermath of a terror attack in Israel the carnage on a bus, in a cafe, at a hotel. But how often do we consider who these victims really were behind the headlines or what conflicts of their own they had been struggling with at the time of their murder?
In Iris Bahr’s Off-Broadway production Dai (Enough), which takes a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of patrons in a Tel Aviv cafe moments before a suicide bomber strikes, we get a chance to do just that.
In a one-woman performance that, for a play about death, offers more than its share of hilarious moments, Bahr transforms herself, with great talent and diversity, into multifaceted characters searching for their roles in Israeli society and struggling with their internal demons.
In the play’s basic premise, a British television reporter wearing her sympathy for the Palestinians on her sleeve is sent to the Jewish state to interview ordinary Israelis and capture their “side” of the Mideast conflict. The 10 cafe-goers, some more sympathetic than others, share their individual stories in 10-minute clips before a tremendous, jarring explosion goes off.
We meet expatriate Alma, wife of tristate limousine company owner Moti, who has settled comfortably on Long Island. She insists on speaking English when conversing on her cell phone because it comes more “natuwally” to her. Then there is Svetlana, a blonde Russian prostitute who immigrated to Israel with forged Jewish identity documents. “When in history this is happening, I ask you?”
Shuli, a right-wing West Bank settler and mother of seven who is originally from Queens, offers no apologies in her views on where Jews have a God-given right to live. Most sympathetic is Uzi, a former IDF general and peer of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, whose son was seriously injured in combat; and, on the flip side, Nijma Aziz, a Palestinian professor who simply wants to enjoy a normal, conflict-free day drinking coffee with her increasingly frustrated, radical son.
We also meet Jessica Mendoza, a Latina actress researching her role as an Israeli woman in an upcoming film set in the Jewish state; Trev Brodman, an American evangelist who has come to Israel to help build a fundamentalist center; and a young, female soldier, an immigrant whose fellow soldiers refer to her as “Ameri-kakit.”
Bahr’s ability to portray such a wide range of characters Israeli and American, Christian and Arab, German and Russian is remarkable and reflects to an extent her own background, which is multifaceted and spans more than one continent. Born and raised in the Bronx, she moved to Israel at the age of 13 and remained there until completing her military service. She then traveled in Asia before entering Brown University to study neuropsychology. An actress and stand-up comedian, she may be recognized in Jewish circles for her hilarious portrayal last season of a Bronx-accented Orthodox woman in the HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm.
The characters in Dai are funny and engaging and complicated like people everywhere. So their deaths, one by one, are jolting and depressing, as audience members wonder how these individuals they have come to know might have turned out had a bomber been prevented from reaching Tel Aviv or chosen to stay alive that day. Despite the predictable intervals between each explosion, playgoers never get used to the jarring impact, just as one never really gets accustomed to the horror of such attacks off-stage.
See the show
Dai is running at The Culture Project at 45 Bleecker St., New York City, through Dec. 16. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster at 212-307-4100, or at the Culture Project box office. On Jan. 4, the show will reopen at the theater’s new facility at 55 Mercer St. Visit or call 886-811-4111 for tickets.
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