I don’t think Hanoch Levin was this positive, outgoing and easy-to-talk-to guy who made small talk and enjoyed social events. I think he was a consumed artist with a big heart, two wide open eyes and one loud mouth that still gets him in trouble, even now that he’s dead. His art points the finger at a world stripped naked of social pleasantries and addresses big issues of life and death in a manner that won’t win him a popularity prize anytime soon.
Last evening I went to see one of Levin’s plays called Such Hope, a relatively new show put on stage at the Odeon Theatre. The director is Radu Afrim, and this should already be enough warning to spectators. Radu is well-known for his modern approach, so if you’re a big fan of Moliere, you might want to skip this one.
The play is a series of 20 sketches that pull out the drawers of different cabinets of human experiences, just to turn them upside down in the middle of the stage. They touch the sordidness love falls into, delusions we build to make convenient sense for ourselves, the lengths we will go to in a desperate quest for love; the threats of ignorance, false intelligence and deceiving information; the tainting and tarnishing of religion; and many more. It’s not just what they say it, but how they do it as well. Sex, death motifs, nudity and strong language take spectators out of their comfort zone and rub their faces in the topic at hand.
Out of his comfort zone was indeed one of the spectators last night, who shouted at the actors right before the end applauses began: “Talented actors, schizophrenic play!”. While some of the artists were obviously offended, I got to thinking maybe that is the best proof that they did a good job. No doubt the asshole who insulted them should be banned from the theatre; however, he is part of the re-education process these people are engaged in. To keep an open mind, to accept that others may have different opinions or tastes in art than you and to express that appropriately are skills that one learns in the advanced stages of personal and social development. The Odeon theatre does its part to teaching these lessons to the extent and pace they can, in groups of several hundreds of people at a time.
Did I mention all the actors were very good? I was particularly impressed with Antoaneta Zaharia and the gorgeous Istvan Teglas, both of whom I hope will have fantastic careers.
I did not leave the theatre sad or uncomfortable, despite the gloomy topics or the incident at the end. Instead, I felt inspired by all these actors who dedicate their lives to diffusing such messages out in the world. I left touched by the grace and beauty of the actors. And I left hopeful, that as long as others share my pain, I am not alone at all.