Monday, July 15, 2013

Review - "Birthright"

By Byrne Harrison

I had planned to review David Lawson's "Birthright," about his experience in the Birthright "heritage tour" of Israel, along with the three one-man shows that I reviewed yesterday.

Upon reflection however, "Birthright" doesn't really fit with those plays.  "Birthright" isn't a play so much as it is an autobiographical monologue, and as such has a different style and texture than the other three shows.  Lawson isn't playing anyone other than himself.  He isn't recreating his experiences in the Birthright program so the audience can experience them with him, he's reflecting on them and bringing his thoughts and observations to the audience.

In Birthright, he explores his innate cynicism when he comes up against the propaganda machine that is the Birthright program, a mix of Zionism and vacation that is the 'must-do' trip for young American Jews.  As he recounts his experiences, he explores the layers and nuances of the effect the program had upon him.  The glib cynicism that seems to be part of his generation wears away as he is forced to deal with his ambivalence toward his identity, the frustration he feels with aspects of the Birthright program, and his inability to connect with things that others in the program seem to accept as given.

Lawson has a natural charm and humor, and having seen him as an actor in both regular plays and in auto-biographical monologues, I have to say that he shines in his monologues (Birthright and VCR Love are the two I've seen), which isn't an easy thing to do.  His insights hold an audience's attention, and are both thoughtful and entertaining.  I look forward to seeing more of this work from Lawson in the future.

On other note about "Birthright."  It was produced in a performance space in Crown Heights called LaunchPad.  It is a terrific small space, really perfect for this sort of show.  I hope to see more work presented there.

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