Grand Guignol : Mr. Goldberg Goes to Tel Aviv

Mr. Goldberg Goes to Tel Aviv. Photo Infinitheatre. Mr. Goldberg Goes to Tel Aviv. Photo Infinitheatre.

Mr. Goldberg goes to Tel Aviv had the potential to present the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict in all its absurdity and horror. The plot follows Mr. Goldberg, a Canadian / American novelist who goes to Tel Aviv to give a talk about his latest book and in the process, criticize Israel’s behaviour towards the Palestinian people.

As the play unfolds, Mr. Goldberg treats the waiter sent to his room in a truly abhorrent way, and is give a standard lecture by the Israeli waiter on the ignorance and presumption of Liberal foreign Jews who do not understand what it means to live in the holy land.

The plot is complicated when a Chassidic man enters and turns into a Palestinian terrorist whose plan is to blow up the Minister of Housing. The Minister’s daughter is supposed to be wed in the patio of the hotel, but the wedding is mysteriously called off because the bride’s mother spotted a cloud, and the rabbi of bride saw a man consuming a ham sandwich in the main Salon.

The lively and somewhat absurd situation is exacerbated when the waiter returns and confesses his profound admiration for the work of Mr. Goldberg. Then the plot takes a left turn into grand guignol and the blood and fake deaths begin. It is so very unbelievable as to become less and less funny. The excess of violence and spurting blood is puerile and uninteresting, and as the rest of the play had in fact been very funny and a clever metaphor for middle Eastern insanity, one was deeply disappointed.

Mr. Safdie could have done better with just a touch of dramaturgy. He has immense talent and his “UNSEEMLY” was brilliant. Howard Rosenstein proves again that he can perform well regardless of the material that he is given. David Gale was pitch perfect as the literary kvetch. He gave a delightful and consistent performance and his timing was terrific. Mohsen El Gharbi was excellent as the confused and bloodthirsty waiter. The set was truly wonderful, as were the lights and video work. It could have been a fantastic work of political wit and social criticism.

The St. James Theatre is a repurposed old bank which merits some exploring before the show. The play is worth getting out into the cold to see, and the acting was worth the frostbite.

Mr. Goldberg Goes to Tel Aviv runs at the St. James Theatre until February 19th. Tickets $25 general admission ($20, students and seniors) at Infinitheatre 514 987 1774. Details HERE.