by Lynn on May 5, 2017

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Theatre Centre, Toronto, Ont.

Created and performed by Natasha Greenblatt and Rimah Jabr.
Sound by Stefan Banjevic
Video designed by Anahita Dehbonehi
Lighting by Jareth Li

A Jewish Canadian and a Muslim Palestinian talk about Israel, history, homeland, losing family and finding a place in the world. Let the discussion begin.

Two Birds One Stone is part of the Riser Project, a new collaborative producing model that gives producing artists the resources and support to produce their plays. It’s a wonderful initiative from Why Not Theatre, at the Theatre Centre. The results have been thought provoking, stimulating and perception changing.

Two Birds One Stone is about two women trying to find their roots. Natasha Greenblatt gives her point of view from a Jewish Canadian perspective and Rimah Jabr gives her point of view from a Muslim Palestinian perspective. One naturally assumes a prickly time in the theatre, and there are those elements. But there is such a collaboration between the women who often express differing opinions that while the differences are there they are expressed in a way that often makes the other reconsider.

Two chairs face the audience. The chairs are on either side of a long table. On the table is a cell phone, two coffee mugs, a pen and a wire structure containing several small oranges. The oranges made me smile. How else does one soften what might be a charged conversation if not by food that both participants like.

After both actresses introduce themselves they have their first disagreement, but there is no animosity. Greenblatt says that most of what we are to see is mostly true and Jabr insists it’s all true. So we begin by being unsettled and wondering who is telling the truth.
Each woman is both running away from something.

Natasha Greenblatt wanted to leave the country because her brother died and she wanted to leave that sadness. (In fact her teenaged brother was a counsellor at camp and drowned in a freak accident.). She applied to a program in Israel called “birthright” which meant she could go on a free trip to Israel for young adults who are Jewish. In the interview for the trip Greenblatt found she didn’t know much about her Jewish heritage. For example, she didn’t know there were any holocaust survivors in her family. She expressed a sense of irritation to her mother that she didn’t know. Her mother asked her to look up her great grandfather’s house in Nablus and she balked at that saying she wouldn’t know where to look, and that it probably wasn’t there anymore etc. But then when she got to Israel she decided to try and find it.

Rimah Jabr has her own story. Her family had been kicked off their land that they had lived on for years. She says to Greenblatt that her great grandfather’s house in Nablus could have once been in her (Jabr’s) family considering the situation in Israel/Palestine.

She questioned her family about its history and was given vague answers by her grandmother. Jabr also challenges her grandmother on that history. All Rimah Jabr wanted was to win a scholarship to study in Europe. She didn’t get it but was invited to create theatre in Belgium. She gladly left.

Those are their individual stories. Matters get prickly when both women interact.
At one point Rimah Jabr takes on the persona of a disillusioned Israeli soldier and decides to find out what is not the company line so begins to investigate other points of view of how Israel treats the Palestinians.

At various points Natasha Greenblatt challenges a statement and Rimah Jabr questions Greenblatt’s thinking and makes her consider another point of view. Greenblatt says that there are two sides to every story. I disagree—as per my late mother. There are three sides to every story: their side, my side and the truth. That works for me.

Occasionally both women speak for the other in expressing a view. It’s an interesting way of blurring the lines between differences. I found it both intriguing but occasionally frustrating because it is confusing as to who is speaking and whose thought is being expressed.

Both women have similar experiences with Israeli bureaucracy but they react quite differently. Greenblatt is frustrated but controlled. Jabr is frustrated and expresses that frustration by being physically destructive. We see her point. We might even sympathize.

At various turns there definitely is a different experience of Israel if one is Jewish and welcome and Palestinian and is not made to feel welcome. Greenblatt seems almost shy and very accommodating while Jabr is more ironic, subtle and reactive. When Jabr offers a different point of view, it is without rancour. It is offered as a way of looking at a problem/question in a different way. Both have a lovely sense of humour with Jabr’s sense of humour having more of an edge.

The suggestion of the piece is that both women met in Israel and formed a bond. This isn’t true. In fact they met when a third party arranged for them to meet in Toronto after-which they wrote the play.

There is a wonderful image at the end. Rimah Jabr takes an orange from the container on the table. She peels it and gives the peel to Natasha Greenblatt who is standing next to her. Then Jabr sections the orange and gives Greenblatt a wedge who eats it. Jabr does the same with her segment. She shares the rest with the audience.

Lovely image—can any disagreement be so prickly that sharing food can’t help find a solution?

Presented by the Riser Project.

: May 4, 2017.
Closes: May 13, 2017.
Cast: two women.
Running Time: 70 minutes.

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