(Alexis Soloski’s article appeared in The New York Times, 12/20; via Pam Green.)
“Grey Rock,” which starts performances on Thursday at La MaMa in Manhattan, is about a Palestinian man who decides to build, in a shed, a rocket to the moon. A play performed by Palestinian actors — they all identify as Palestinian, though some passports say Israel and one says Jordan — and co-produced by the Remote Theater Project, its journey to New York was not exactly nonstop.
“Almost as nerve-racking as the M.T.A. system,” Mr. Zuabi said with a deadpan on a recent afternoon. “Almost.”
While Israeli companies and plays are a common presence in New York, plays by Palestinian companies or on Palestinian themes are rarer and often a source of controversy. In 1989, the Public Theater canceled a Palestinian play, with then-artistic director Joe Papp claiming, “I didn’t want to make a statement at this particular moment by presenting a play dealing with the Arab-Israeli world from a Palestinian point of view.”
In 2006, New York Theater Workshop effectively canceled a production of “My Name Is Rachel Corrie,” a play about an American activist killed in the Gaza Strip. In 2017, when New York University staged “The Siege,” reportedly destined for the Public Theater at one point, the Anti-Defamation League and the World Jewish Congress protested.
“Grey Rock,” a simple and somewhat allegorical story, is less overtly political than any of these pieces. “It’s an invitation to peek into who we really are,” Mr. Zuabi said.
Having spent the late fall rehearsing in Ramallah, a Palestinian city in the West Bank region, Mr. Zuabi and his cast were now stumbling through the play on the fifth floor of a building on Great Jones Street: creaking floors, tin ceilings, windows streaming smudged winter sunlight. Mr. Zuabi’s last play, “Oh My Sweet Land,” centered on the making of savory kibbe, but here the snack table held mostly sweets, including two Bundt cakes to celebrate two different birthdays. A filter dripped coffee into a thermos. The cast complained it wasn’t strong enough.
Credit: Michael Kirby Smith for The New York Times