Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Human Scale

Lawrence Wright is a writer for The New Yorker who recently performed his piece, The Human Scale, at Joe’s Pub. Based on Wright’s November 9 New Yorker article “Captives,” The Human Scale deals with the aftermath of the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. (Wright is also the author of a book about Al Queda called The Looming Tower.) Bertholt Brecht, whose plays have been a signature of the Public Theater over the years (Meryl Streep starred in Mother Courage back in 2006), epitomized the conjunction of politics and theater. What is unusual about Wright’s approach is that it’s the conjunction of journalism and theater, replete with a video backdrop and Wright’s attempts to capture the accents of Palestinian and Israeli subjects. Magazine articles sometimes become the subjects of movies, but they are rarely developed as monologues. What is also unusual about Wright’s screed is that it’s an impassioned plea for equanimity. Passion usually tends to be one-sided. Twenty years ago, Gazans were living and working in Israel; there were tensions, but there was also a de facto reciprocity between the two societies. Now, in the aftermath of the Shalit hostage-taking, the firing of missiles into Israel by Hamas, and the Israeli army’s response, Gaza has been reduced to rubble, its citizens taken hostage by an act of hostage-taking. There could have been other solutions, Wright maintains, but the kidnapping served a perverse purpose, in that it facilitated the kind of polarization that nourishes extremism. 

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