Two Jews Walk Into a War
The profound and absurd collide in a philosophical comedy about community.
Two Jews Walk Into a War… A Vaudeville at Theater J is a fun and thoughtful night at the theater. The play, which has been updated for this production, is written by Seth Rozin and directed by the former Theater J Artistic Director, Adam Immerwahr.
The play follows Ishaq and Zeblyan who are the last remaining Jews in Afghanistan. They share the only synagogue that has not been destroyed by the Taliban and a vital mission to repopulate the Jewish community in Kabul. And they absolutely hate each other.
According to the press release “Two Jews Walk Into a War… is a contemporary, side-splitting vaudeville that asks the question of whether or not this cantankerous couple can commit to one incredible act of faith to keep their community alive…without killing one another first. Part The Odd Couple and part Waiting for Godot, the play is equally warm and wicked, absurd and profound, brilliant and full of bathroom humor.” Having now sat through 80 minutes of the play without an intermission, I can vouch the press release is spot on.
The two actors, Bobby Smith (Ishaq) and Sasha Olinick (Zeblyan) are both local to DC and are both wonderful in their roles. They command the stage and draw you in. The play is separated into many scenes, all in the synagogue, and they are separated effectively by music and the stage going dark.
In the first scene you are introduced to where the play takes place, Kabul, Afghanistan, during the war, as they tell you, an endless war. The rest is a fascinating look at their relationship, how they want to repopulate the Jewish community in Kabul, and they’re actually writing their own copy of the Torah. Ishaq has memorized the Torah and he recites it to Zeblyan who writes it down on parchment he found. Now one of the first laughs comes from the parchment which Ishaq says is most likely not kosher after Zeblyan tells him where he got it. There are some very funny scenes as the writing of the Torah begins when Ishaq remembers not only the words but each punctuation mark.
The humor in the play actually comes often from some of the big issues dealt with in the Torah and Zeblyan manages to make some of what Theater J Managing Director David Lloyd Olson has called “below-the-belt jokes and make them something very profound.” For instance, in the Torah which is supposedly the word of god, it says ‘man shall not lay down with man’. Zeblyan then questions why god didn’t say ‘woman shall not lay down with woman’? He presumes, to Ishaq’s dismay, that means god may not like Gays but is fine with Lesbians. And so goes the evening, interesting issues, lots of laughter.
The stage setting is by Jonathan Dahm Robertson (Scenic Designer), the music by Sarah O’Halloran (Sound Design), Lighting by Alberto Segarra (Lighting Designer) and the great costumes by Ivania Stack (Costume Designer).
I highly recommend you see this show for an enjoyable and enlightening night at the theater. Two Jews Walk Into a War… will be at Theater J until February 5, 2023 and you can get tickets online at theaterj.org or call the ticket office at 202.777.3210.