A filmed version of David Hare’s play, which enjoyed successful runs last year in London and New York, <i>Via Dolorosa</i> describes his journey to Israel. The English playwright (<i>Plenty, The Blue Room, Amy’s View</i>) had long wanted to visit the Holy Land since his subject matter is faith and belief.
Hare’s trip begins in Tel Aviv, where he hears about a production of Romeo and Juliet, featuring Jews as the Montagues and Palestinians as the Capulets, which took eight years to organize. He moves on to Hebron, where Jews live surrounded by Arabs. When he asks his hostess, Sarah, whether the Jews should be there, she speaks of their religious mandate to walk the hills where their prophets prophesized. Then he goes to Gaza, Israel’s “underside,” where he talks to many Arabs, all with contradictory opinions about Arafat. Finally, he comes to Jerusalem, where the air is “saturated with prayers and dreams,” to walk the Via Dolorosa, Christ’s way of the cross to Calvary: “all these stones, all this sadness, all this light.” He feels a great sense of loss when he finds it paved and lined with postcard shops.
What amazes him throughout his journey is the heated debate among Jews themselves about the identity and destiny of Israel, best summed up in the words of novelist David Grossman: “Are we where we live, or are we what we think? Which matters, stones or ideas?” Hare performs the extended monologue, and it’s fascinating to watch him bring his memories to life. More than simply telling, he recreates conversations and reinvents encounters.
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