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Review - The ARC: A Trilogy of New Jewish Plays

Soho Theatre

Playing until 26th August 2023

Writer (Birth): Amy Rosenthal

Writer (Marriage): Alexis Zergerman

Writer (Death): Ryan Craig

Director by: Kayla Feldman

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Using three short stories, The Arc tells the stages of human life: birth, marriage and death. Each tale is self-contained and despite the initial description appear to be somewhat serious and gloomy, each of the piece is well thought out, realistic in what can be delivered in the span of about twenty minutes, and all of them were incredibly humourous.

“Birth” introduces the audience to Michael (Nigel Planer) and Lynda (Caroline Gruber), a married couple who are unexpectedly confronted by a woman, Naomi, (Dorothea Myer-Bennett) at their doorstep. Naomi is seeking some form of closure due to a sense of incompleteness as a result of her possibly induced birth by Michael fifty years ago. Without spoiling too much, while Michael expected a lawsuit, Naomi simply wanted an answer to a question that she had held onto for many years, which also serves as a reminder to Lynda of her marriage to Michael and how they felt on their honeymoon.

Using the end of “Birth” as a catalyst, the audience is then introduced to Adrian (Sam Thorpe-Spinks) and Eva (Abigail Weinstock), who meet in a restaurant for their first date, which does not go well. Each time the room blacks out, the Adrian and Eva meet again, apparently with no recollection of their past date, and this repeats itself a couple more times before we are told that this is the work of God(frey) (Planer), who resets their date in order to set the two up, and increase the number of Jews on Earth. While divine intervention certainly helped, what triggered progress in a positive direction was the two opening up to each other and sharing their stories. Although this piece is considered to be about “Marriage”, the more appropriate description is perhaps “Romance” or “Relationship”.

The last piece, “Death” is perhaps the most thought provoking, but nonetheless exceptionally funny. Siblings Leah (Weinstock) and Adam (Dan Wolff) were instructed to plan the funeral of their very much alive, symbol of health, grandmother, because everybody should be prepared for her eventual demise. Adam does not feel the need to prepare this far in advance, and yet it is revealed that he has made all the necessary provisions for his daughter’s hamster’s funeral in order to give it a proper send off. Despite the fact that the story appears to be centred around a dead hamster, this is simply symbolic of the loss of Adam’s wife and daughter, who are both moving away.

I would like to praise Dorothea Myer-Bennett’s versatility in this production, smoothly transitioning from a sweet and at times hysterical woman in “Birth” to a sassy and uncaring waitress in “Marriage”. The set design by Verity Johnson is simple and effectively, creating a homely feel that also doubles up as a restaurant, with minimal changes required as the production transitions from one story to the next.

The three short stories work reasonably well together and writers each created a standalone piece of work that is delivered at a right pace, with a good amount of content to keep the audience interested but not overwhelmed. Using a wicked sense of humour, the writers communicate some serious topics in a more casual and stimulating manner, though somewhat unclear what the individual or overarching message is. Similarly, the topics aren't sufficiently explored and I would argue that these are three short scenario of events rather than plays, each one of them could be significantly expanded as standalone plays.

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