When I was working on Hummingbird604, I did a lot of theatre reviews. A lot. I must have mentioned it in my last play review, but I’ve seen more theatre since August than I have in my entire life. And I have a graduate degree in literature. Go figure.
Even though this wonderful time is over (and other wonderful times are ahead I’m sure), I still have a few friends in the theatre world and one of them, Lauren, invited me to the premiere of After Jerusalem on December 1st.
Here’s the story in a nutshell: Carol, a middle-aged high school teacher from Regina, decides to take a trip to Jerusalem for Christmas. While waiting in line to enter the Church of the Nativity, she meets Vladimir, an Israeli soldier screening tourists for metals.
What begins here is an honest, understated (in Lauren’s words) and infinitely human love story. Carol (wonderfully touching Deborah Williams) and Vladimir (charismatic and honest Andrew McNee) are awkward, lie, have ulterior motives and finally open up to each other. They are every first date, every holiday romance. They are, in their own way, beautiful.
Aaron Bushkowsky weaves a neat plot that will make you laugh most of the time, and maybe cry at the end, but will have you think throughout. How do you find love in a war-torn country? How do you retain your morality in the constant threat of terrorist attacks? How can imagination save us from cynicism and loneliness? These are all questions that are addressed in the play.
The stage is as simple as you can imagine: a raised platform, a few bands of white fabric in the background, and simple, minimalist props. It gives all the space for the story to unfold without hindrance, but it also exposes the characters from all sides (quite literally). Costumes are also minimal, but everything is meant to put the spotlight on the characters and not the setting (even though the setting takes its rightful place at the end of the play).
In a mesh of movie references (a favourite scene from Indiana Jones, anyone?), the play presents a typically atypical love story between an older woman and a young, strapping soldier who wants to make it in the movie world. But the result is far from grotesque: it is simple, beautiful and exceedingly moving. You could see these two make a couple, in real life, despite all the difficulties and the problems between countries, cultures and ages.
The open-ended finale leaves you, like the end of Inception, to make your own choice as to whether they belong together or not. Vladimir and Carol don’t escape from tragedy, but maybe they can survive it.
After Jerusalem is on until December 11th at Performance Works on Granville Island. Tickets are available at the door or on VancouverTix.
Disclaimer: I attended the play on a complimentary ticket graciously offered by my friend Lauren. Nobody asked me to write a review, but I feel I have to share this wonderful play with you.