Stephen Orlov’s powerful
examination of radicalization

Birthmark hopes for peace and justice in war torn Holy Land

By Byron Toben

Youth Radicalization is a hot topic these days.

It was a major part of ex-CSIS expert Phil Gurski’s talk at a MIGS (Montreal Institute For Genocide and Human Rights Studies) lecture on October 30 and will be the subject of a Jeanne Sauve Foundation panel on November 13.

Birthmark - WestmountMag.caTheatrically, the subject is powerfully examined in Stephen Orlov’s latest play, Birthmark.

This is the third play in his Diaspora trilogy (Salaam-Shalom and Sperm Count being the first two). He is currently working on a sequel to Birthmark, to be called Engagement.

Here, Howard Rosenstein plays David, a Jewish father to his adopted son, Nelson (Patrick Keeler). The two previously co-starred in Infini and Fringe Hit Honesty Rents By The Hour.

Natalie Tannous (recently in The Baklawa Recipe at the Centaur) plays Jamila, a Palestinian mother who brought her adopted daughter, Karima (Dalia Charafeddine, a recent Concordia grad) to Montreal, where all of the above four now reside.

I felt that the fluid stage movements and actors changing props were in the spirit of acclaimed director Robert Lepage…

Rounding out the cast is Stephen Spreekmeester, a veteran film/TV actor, who doubles as an advisory rabbi and as an RCMP officer.

Turns out that both children are eager to move to the Middle East against their parents’ wishes possibly to be involved in violent acts.

Birthmark - WestmountMag.caThe whole staging moves smoothly under the direction of accomplished Liz Valdez who has graciously mentored and co-directed with young Michelle Soicher. I felt that the fluid stage movements and actors changing props were in the spirit of acclaimed director Robert Lepage, to whom Ms Valdez admitted an admiration at the post opening show reception.

Both children have artistic sensibilities. Nelson, a visual artist has also been immersed in religious studies, while Karima, a musician, dotes on historical rights and wrongs.

Birthmark - WestmountMag.caWhile I was entranced by the fine acting and staging of this play, I must admit that I was distracted by the fact that much is made in the plot about a refusal to take a DNA test. I kept thinking of all the TV cop shows such as CSI where such evidence is gathered simply by swiping a cup on which the person left some saliva.

My quibble aside, presenter Teesri Duniya must be congratulated, together with its co-presenter, the MAI (Montreal Arts Interculturels) for continuing its mission to “change the world, one play at a time”.

As it often does, Teesri Duniya hosts several “talk backs” after some performances. Remaining such post show discussions are on November 8, 11, 13 and 15.

Birthmark continues at the MAI until November 18.
514 982-3386

Images: Jaclyn Turner

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Read also: Barbara Lewis sings on How Women Feel

Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club.

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