Monday, March 20, 2023

Oy! Yaacobi & Leidental.. at the Odyssey


Yaacobi & Leidental at The Odyssey! 

 There is a lot to be said for  serendipity. Two highly unusual plays back to back with a common denominator:  confetti!  Never having heard of the playwright, Hanoch Levin, it was a genuine and an honest-to-goodness  pleasure to discover that the 'big' space at The Odyssey was decorated to give "Yaacobi & Leidental" a beautiful Music Hall feeling and for this important show to finally get on it's feet.   

Full disclosure..  I have known the actor, Michael Redfield (Leidental) for a long time. At the age of three he bested me in a game of Hangman and I have never forgiven him!  Well.. never  forgotten, anyway.  

That said! "Yaacobi &  Leidntal" is a play with text and subtext with wonderful performances that include a gorgeous mystery woman on piano (Musical Director Nisha Sujatha Arunasalam), who, at last, brings Hanoch Levin's play full circle. I'm humming Joni Mitchell's "The Circle Game" now. It's an analogy that director, Yonatan Esterkin,  has made. We go round and round and round...

Naaman Tammuz tackles the  business of translating, playwright Hanoch Levin's Hebrew text to almost colloquial English.  The rhythms of the English  translation retain the cadences of the Hebrew. The accents are subtle. There's a bit of Dario Fo and an odd warmth with the contradictory business going on in a series of short scenes. Abbot and Costello? No.  But an undercurrent of the conflicts that each of the characters encounters in attempts to best one another and land the girl.

Poor Leidental (Michael Redfield) and equally unhappy Yaacobi (Ilia Volok) sound at the outset a little bit like Martin McDonaugh's Colm and Padric with the back and forth of wasting time in a dead end friendship. Yaacobi's  first speech declaring that he's done with his dear old dominoes pal, Leidental is just sad.   Ow.

Factor in the very voluptuous Ruth Shekhash (Wonderful Sera Heywood-Rakhimova) with  her delicious bouncing breasts and Really Big Tuchas and off we go.


Sera Heywood-Rakhimova, Michael Redfield,
and Ilia Volok
Photo by Jenny Graham
There is a sense of  the presence of Beckett? In a hat? Brecht being busy?Sholom Aleichem?  No Fiddler on stage, but perfect music underscoring softly  written by Alex Kagan.   And, expository songs

It's a play with music.  Director Esterkin discusses 'horizons' and how we all look to new horizons..and in this story it seems we come full circle: never having really reached the horizon at all.  The Circle Game.

"Yaacobi &  Leidntal" comes along Music Hall presentational style, breaking the fourth wall with honest declarations by each of the characters discussing their true feelings, anxieties and issues. The audience  is privy to what we seldom see or hear in 'real life,' the inner hopes and dreams of these unique and beautifully presented characters. 

 Thanks to Ron Sossi  and The Odyssey for continuing to stay in the avant garde of important theatre.  Pete Hickock's highly functional set (and refrigerator!) is an important part of how the show works. Michael Blendermann's lighting? YES!  And, Denise Blasor's costumes, especially, Shekash's Booosums & Tuchas  with jiggle &  bounce steal the show.  

See this play!  

A personal side note:  The wire rim glasses helping to define the chubby Liedental are the same glasses worn by Michael's Dad, Dennis Rhoton (Redfield) in a film he made many years ago.  

Dennis was a friend.

Dramatis Personæ
Leidental   Michael Redfiled
    Ilia Volok
Sera Heywood-Rakhimova

Musical Director Nisha Sujatha Arunasalam

Yaacobi and Leidental 
play with short songs
Hanoch Levin
from the Hebrew by Naaman Tammuz

Odyssey Theatre
2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles CA 90025

Previews: March 15 and March 16
Press Preview:
March 17 (also open to the public)
March 18 – April 30
Wednesdays at 8 p.m.: March 15 (Preview), March 29*, April 12* and April 26 ONLY
Thursday at 8 p.m.: March 16 (Preview)
Fridays at 8 p.m.: March 17 (Press Preview), March 24** and April 14** ONLY
Saturdays at 8 p.m.: March 18 (Opening), March 25, April 1, April 8, April 15
Sundays at 2 p.m.: March 19, March 26, April 2, April 9, April 16
Mondays at 8 p.m.: April 3, April 10 and April 24 ONLY

*Post-performance discussions on Wednesday, March 29 and Wednesday, April 12
**Wine Nights on Friday, March 24 and Friday, April 14: complimentary wine and snacks and after the show.

• Previews: $20
• Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays: $25$40
• Mondays: Pay-What-You-Will (reservations open online and at the door starting at 5:30 p.m.)

(310) 477-2055 ext. 2


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