Review: This Is Not A Conversation

by Lynn on October 2, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

On Line, from the IMPACT21 Festival, hosted by MT Space, Kitchener, Ont. Zooming: Oct. 5 at 1:00 pm  and Oct 8 at 1:00 pm

Created and performed by Itai Erdal, Dima Alansari and Ker Wells.

Originally directed by Ker Wells.

Present reading directed by Anita Rochon

This actually is a bracing, thoughtful, passionate conversation between Itai Erdal, an Israeli-Canadian theatre-maker, and Dima Alansari, a Lebanese woman of the world, of film and the arts, about the Israeli-Palestinian divide.

From the programme’s description:

“This is Not a Conversation

October 2 – 8, 2021

The Elbow Theatre  

This is Not a Conversation is, in fact, a conversation―about guilt, memory, identity, and the nature of responsibility.

Dima’s father is a Palestinian from Jerusalem, where she is not allowed to visit. Itai is an Israeli from Jerusalem, who was a soldier in Palestine. Both are natural storytellers and improvisers. Both are very passionate about the conflict. What happens when you put them on stage together? This is not a conversation.

The situation in Israel and Palestine has become the quintessentially unresolvable conflict of our time. Successive generations and governments have discussed, negotiated, and fought over an area of land smaller than Vancouver Island, and home to over twelve million people, and a peaceful solution has never seemed more remote than in the past year. Itai Erdal was born in Israel and served with the Israeli Army in Lebanon and Palestine. Shortly after he left the army, he decided that he also had to leave Israel, and in 1999 he came to Canada. Dima Alansari is a grandchild of Palestinians exiled from Jerusalem during the 1948 forced exodus. She has never been allowed to visit Palestine. In 2013 Itai and Dima met at a dinner party in Vancouver. Working with director Ker Wells, Itai and Dima have created This is Not a Conversation: a conversation in words and actions about guilt, memory, identity, and the nature of responsibility.”

While this certainly is a conversation about a thorny issue, it is so clear that this is a conversation between friends who respect each other. Each is impassioned when expressing their points of view, but they are never accusatory or insulting. They each listen to each other’s arguments and often see the other’s point of view. That does not mean that they let the other ‘person off’ lightly. Often it seemed that Itai Erdal was having to explain himself, if he expressed himself as an Israeli in Jerusalem. When he talked of East and West Jerusalem, Dima Alansari challenged him about that divided city. He often commented on Israel and she refer to it as Palestine. He painted a picture of how Israelis could get from one place to another, but if one was a Palestinian living in Israel it could take four hours of constant documents being checked, interrogation etc.

Dima talked of the displacement of the Palestinians from what would be Israel in 1948 but also acknowledged that the Jews who were settled there were also displaced from their European homes. Itai talked of the different between Jews and Israelis and that many Israelis were critical of their government which did not mean they were anti-Israel. He explained why he left Israel and came to Canada. All of it informative.

I loved this conversation for its respect, passion, intensity of thought, history, context and glimmers of hope. It ends with a question, the answer of which is up to us.

A first draft workshop of This Is Not A Conversation was invited to the 2015 IMPACT Festival in Kitchener. The finished show premiered at the 2017 Spark Festival in Victoria, B.C. It was originally directed with skill and sensitivity by Ker Wells, who unfortunately died two years ago. This version was directed with care and respect by Anita Rochon.

In this angry, raging world of blinkered opinions and intolerance of a different point of view, This is Not A Conversation  is an important conversation to hear.

Created by Elbow Theatre, Vancouver, showing at IMPACT21, for MT Space, Kitchener, Ont.

Runs on Zoom: Oct. 5 at 1:00 pm and Oct. 8 at 1:00 pm

Running Time: 1 hour.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Itai Erdal October 4, 2021 at 1:52 am

Thank you for this review, I am so glad you liked the show. I wanted to mention that though Ker Wells did direct this show with skill and sensitivity like you said (he also wrote it with us), Ker passed away two years ago and this reading was directed by Anita Rochon, doing her best Ker Wells impersonation


2 Lynn October 4, 2021 at 9:50 am

Much thanks for this Itai. I have made the changes. Initially I only used the play information provided on the festival website when I wrote the review. The actual show program does indicate Ker Wells as a co-creator. However the program does not indicate that Anita Rochon directed this version. In any case I made all the changes you noted. Much thanks for this. And truly, in this wild, angry, intolerant world, where listening to the other’s point of view is not even an option, this show is a gift.

Best, Lynn Slotkin


3 Александра October 15, 2021 at 10:10 pm

An audition or portfolio review is not required to study theatre at Muhlenberg — but it can be a great way for us to get to know you and for you to get to know the theatre program.