The Odd Couple of Kabul: Two Jews Walk Into a War

In playwright Seth Rozin’s dramatic comedy, Two Jews Walk into a War, two middle-aged Afghani Jews exchange schtick and tsuris over their being the two last Jews of Kabul following the overthrow of the Taliban government in 2001.  The two men — Ishaq and Zeblyan — hate each other – but agree to work together to write a new torah in order to find a rabbi who will convert a couple of Afghan women to Judaism so the procreation of Jewish babies ma proceed.  This is a delightful farce masterfully acted by Tom Teti and John Pietrowski, directed by James Glassman and currently playing at Interact Theatre (2030 Sansom Street).

More after the jump.

Rozin explains that “It started out as an existential comedy, then moved to more of a vaudeville comedy, and finally toward a drama.  I did not anticipate where the play ended up.”  The playbill comes with some notes on Jewish text and ritual in the play.  In one of the more poignant scenes Ishaq  mimes wrapping tefillin because all the tefillin has been absconded by the Taliban.  Judaism survives despite all the obstacles.  

“As with most of my plays, I use factual events, situations and characters as a launching pad to explore some larger theme or answer a larger question,”  Rozin explains.  When I asked Rozin what kind of research he did to prepare to write the play he said, “I had never read the Torah, so when I decided that was going to be the key to the story I needed to read at least some of it.  I focused my research on the Book of Leviticus, which includes all the laws, and read a number of interpretations of the controversial sections (lesbians, spilling seed, etc.).”   You must go see this amusing, irreverent play which, in its final scene, goes beyond light comedic fare to reach a well-earned dramatic end.  The play goes beyond a borsch-belt type schtick which makes it easily accessible and enters into another realm altogether in the final scene.  

Playwright and founder of Interact Theatre asks the following question in Two Jews: “Why are so many people whose circumstances are so terrible, and whose families have endured the same suffering for generations, so devout in their belief in a higher power?  Why wouldn’t their faith have weakened, as opposed to strengthened, as a result of their suffering?  The answer came to me in the writing of Two Jews: in the absence of such strongly held faith, they would have nothing; they might as well give up.  I never understood that.”  

On Sunday May 1, Dr. Hanoch Guy, Emeritus Professor of Jewish Studies at Temple University, will lead a post-performance discussion of Two Jews Walk Into a War.

Two Jews Walk Into a War.  On the Mainstage of The Adrienne through Mother’s Day, May 8, 2011.
2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia (215) 568-8079.   http://www.interacttheatre.org…