The explosive and provocative stage play Masked -- which opened last night at the GableStage -- skillfully manages to plumb the depths of the raw emotions of the divisive Israeli-Palestinian issue with honest story telling and aggressive, brooding and sobering performances from its three stars.
Written in 1990, three years after the first Intifada (Palestinian resistance), the one act play (translated from Hebrew by Michael Taub) is leavened with the rigid realities of the Palestinian plight, while still managing to reveal a picture of the toxicity that pervades war and its countless and, most often, nameless victims.
Three Palestinian brothers -- Dauod, Na'im, and Khalid, -- are torn between their obligations to family, ideology and their own survival during the struggle's most intense days. Middle brother Na'im (Nick Duckhart) is ensconced with the Palestinian resistance. The eldest brother, Daoud (Carlos Orizondo), is a new father and works at an Israeli restaurant as a dishwasher. The youngest, Khalid (Abdiel Gabriel), is headstrong and impressionable.
Simmering beneath the surface of their relationship are rampant rumors that Daoud has turned informant for the Israeli government, while the brothers are still dealing with a tragedy that recently rocked their lives. Na'im was attending a rally with the men's seven-year old brother when Israeli soldiers suddenly arrived and began shooting into the crowd once things escalated. The boy was shot in the head and rendered an invalid. The tragedy, as well as Na'im's suspicions about Daoud, sets into motion an explosive confrontation between the three brothers that reflect the horrors of war, while exposing the constant peril and unimaginable tension the men face on a daily basis from both sides of the fence.
Were the Israelis notified of the rally? And, if so, was it Daoud who tipped them off?
It's with these questions where the already emotionally charged story takes off with searing dialog that is carried through blistering performances by all three actors, particularly from Orizondo, whose restrained anguish bubbles to the surface with unhinged intensity as things begin to unravel.
At its heart, Masked is a story of family and blood. And the play deftly toes the line between political commentary and emotionally charged story. Truth is, the setting for Masked could be anywhere, during any war or violent struggle in human history. But the rawness of the subject matter brings home the richness of this particular tale, and director Joseph Adler seems to have gotten his actors to hit the right notes at every turn.
Gripping, explosive, and filled with shocking twists, Masked is an explosive play that deals with bloodlines, loyalty, war, occupation, and death. It's a play that looks to find resolve in the cracks of complex issues where there are no easy answers.
Look for extended review in this week's issue.
Masked will run through August 7 at the GableStage at the Biltmore (1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables). Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances are at 8 p.m. Sunday performances are at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets cost $47.50. Call 305-445-1119 or visit GableStage.org.
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