By Jerry Tallmer
Her name is Svetlana, she is a bleached-blonde, big-breasted, sex-loving Russian prostitute, Catholic by birth, not Jewish, who has come into the Montefiore Café in Tel Aviv to stir up some business. Just before the bomb goes off that will blow the scene into a blazing blood-soaked hell a bomb belted around the waist of a tense. good-looking young guy named Youssef this Svetlana shares with us her reflections on Israel and the Israelis:
I never meet people like this. They have belief in something impossible hope for life of peace, but on the same side they are smart enough to know it will never happen. How can you hope for something you know is not possible? It is crazy. They are like wounded animals, dont know right from wrong, thinking the world treated us like shit, now we can treat these Palestinians like shit. We have the power hahaha!
Maybe thats what happens to your soul when you are being hated for thousands of years. A kid is hated for one year in school he is traumatized for life, these peoples have been hated since the beginning of time, who would not have a complex? Look at Americans, they get bombed once they become the most suspicious byeazumyets [idiots] on earth.
The above lines, written and performed, like all else in Dai, by an unbleached, unstacked, unRussian, complicatedly attractive young woman named Iris Bahr who keeps her precise age to herself are at the heart of her 75-minute hit that went from four nights last year at Baruch College in the Culture Projects Impact Festival to a two-month sold-out rip at 45 Bleecker Street, and has now moved, along with the Culture Project itself, to 55 Mercer Street between Broome and Grand. Its directed by Will Pomerantz.
Iris, in the present case, is pronounced Eee-reese. Among the eight or ten human beings of Dai who will, like the several diverse individuals in Thornton Wilders 1927 The Bridge on San Luis Rey, meet their deaths in this one (reiterated and reiterated) blast at the Montefiore Café, are:
a weary, cordial, aging kibbutznik who has already lost one son to the wars;
a fat, pasty-faced, anti-Semitic-reared postwar German who falls head-over-homo-heels in love with the golden-boy Israeli student whose tour bus he was picketing;
a 60-ish Israeli-born New York rich-bitch who cant wait to get back home from this miserable, uncomfortable little country in which her sister still has the toilet where you have to pull the rope to flush;
a fanatical hard-core West Bank settler who would gladly wipe out a hundred million Arabs for the sake of the Promised Land and her own three small children;
an elegant, sophisticated Palestinian woman a professor of statistics at Bethlehem University who worries about the uptight Israeli-hating son for whom shes waiting at this moment, and equates the Israeli-Arab death struggles with her own bad marriage;
a young Amerikakit sergeant from Manhattans Upper West Side who has just learned of two of her mothers sisters here in Israel she never heard of before;
a showbizzy good-looking Latino-American actress who has come to Tel Aviv in hopes of snaring the lead in a Hollywood movie about a suicide bombing;
a spooky, icy American Christian fundamentalist who is 100 percent behind the Israelis to bring on the rapture the return of the Messiah but will plough them under, instantly, without a scruple, if that doesnt work out
Plus that prostitute named Svetlana.
And one other: a headline-hunting worldwide CNN correspondent who dripping condescension answers to the name of Christiane
no, no, not Amanpour
I know, said Iris Bahr over her English muffin not in Tel Avivs Montefiore Café, where she has worked as a waitress, but the Chelsea Gallery Diner, on the northern edge of Greenwich Village. I know, everybody thinks
well, I gave her the name Christiane, but
Discretion being the better part of valor, she reached for her coffee and let the whole thing go.
Iris Bahr, the daughter of Bulgarian-born Ruth and Haim Bar-Ziv, moved with her mother from Riverdale to Israel when she, Iris, was 13. (Her father is a retired banker in New York.)
It was after shed completed her two years of service as a sergeant in the Intelligence branch of the Israeli Defense Forces she saw no combat that she took off on a years exploration of Asia and of herself that she chronicles in a memoir about to be published by Bloomsbury. Its titled Dork Whore, and is subtitled
I cant even speak this, Ms. Bahr said, glancing around the diner; then grabbed the interviewers notebook and inscribed therein: My travels (search for sex) through Asia as a 20-year-old pseudo-virgin.
And did you find what you were searching for?
Yes, but you have to read the book.
After the Army and after Asia she came back to the country where she was born this one to earn her BA in psychology from Brown University, followed by, in her words, brain research and MRI research and cancer research at Stanford University and in Tel Aviv.
Thats what I thought I was going to be doing, but at college I started acting, and I found out that as much as I loved research, I loved acting more. Her budding career includes a movie called Larry the Cable Guy and a recurring role in TVs Curb Your Enthusiasm. An earlier one-woman show of hers, Planet America, had things to say about immigration and identity. Alienation, Iris Bahr says, is a big theme in all my work. I think its because of my splintered upbringing.
No, shes never been in the immediate vicinity of a suicide bombing, but Tel Avivs pretty small. I would hear about a bombing and call mom her mother works at the University to say everythings okay.
No, shes lost no close friends or family to the suicide bombers, though shes got friends who have friends who were killed. Its always one person removed.
Dai is Hebrew for Enough.
I wrote this show, says Ms. Bahr, in order to bring to life Israeli society in a way that I think many people [outside Israel] have not realized. The conflicted minds of Israelis as I have come to experience them. To explore all sides. And to evoke a very visceral experience in the audience. Ive known what it is to live with this constant tension in your body.
It all comes down doesnt it? to a contradiction in terms. Two bodies cant occupy the same space at the same time. Whose land is it?
I think the question goes beyond that, she replies. How does one coexist?
Does that mean you think coexistence is possible?
I dont know. Two beats. I hope so. Otherwise you get a defeatist attitude that can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. It only takes a few extremists to ruin it for everybody. After an even longer pause: I think everythings been said before, so I dont feel like reinventing the wheel.
Maybe you could be called a hopeless optimist?
Yeah, said Iris Bahr.
Maybe we all are, said the interviewer.
DAI. Written and performed by Iris Bahr. Directed by Will Pomerantz. At Allan Buchmans relocated Culture Project, 55 Mercer Street between Broome and Grand, (866) 811-4111.