When I think of the State of Israel, I often think of music. I think of the national anthem, “Hatikvah” and the Israeli flag rising over Temple Mount. I think of the song “Jerusalem of Gold” and I envision the Dome of the Rock. I think of David Broza playing “Yihieh Tov” in the desert. For me, music is what culturally binds the land to its people, and as since its creation.
Arts and culture journalist James Inverne clearly saw this, too, only has the smarts and literary ability to turn his vision into a new play called “A Walk With Mr. Heifetz,” now playing at Primary Stages. Apparently the story derives from a story he was working on for the Jewish Chronicle. He was told the story of a violinist who was also a kibbutznik circa 1925. One night after a big concert in Palestine, he met a very famous musician named Jascha Heifetz who transformed his life. He was also the brother of Yehudi Menhin, one of Israel’s founding fathers alongside Ben-Gurion and Chaim Weizmann. The two men walked all night long, which led to his decision to go to Berlin to further his trade.
In the play, the lead character has become Yehuda Sharett, played beautifully by Yuval Boim, and Mr. Heiftetz is played by Adam Green. This story is the first act of the show, which includes the presence of a female violinist, who appears to be abstract, either as Sharett’s conscious or the embodiment of the women in his life.
We all know what happened in Germany not long after, and along the way, the musician loses significant members of his family, including one of his siblings and his wife, and he becomes a recluse. When the brothers meet 20 years later, they encourage each other to go on. As we watch and listen to their conversation, we are reminded that Israel was founded on tradition and heritage and that we all have a responsibility to further its mission as a home to all Jewish people, where they were..and still are… safe from fear and persecution.
I gravitate towards plays about Israel and Jewish history, so I was very much looking forward to this play. I appreciate what Inverne was trying to do, but something was missing or too much.I found the play to be slightly uneven. It wasn’t long, but there’s a lot of dialogue. It might have been the violinist, who I appreciated as her music was beautiful, but I found her distracting. It could have been that the story was confusing and the details slightly distorted and hard to follow.
However, any effort on the NYC stage about the State of Israel, its vibrant culture and history, has my attention and devotion. If you have an interest in the State of Israel and want to celebrate its music and role in our lives, see this show.
‘A Walk With Mr Heifetz’ is playing at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York until March 4, presented by Primary Stages. More information here: cherrylanetheatre.org.