THEATER REVIEW: DOV AND ALI
Anna Ziegler’s Dov and Ali, directed by Katherine Kovner, could get political. Conflict between Jews and Muslims is often marked by an unwillingness to communicate. But Zeigler, turning the stage into a space where difficult conversations about religion, identity and difference take place, gives life to characters who are hungry for communication, not politics as usual.
The two main characters are members of religious communities that are often depicted in polar opposition. Dov (Adam Green), Ali’s high school English teacher, was raised in an Orthodox Jewish family with a Rabbi for a father, and Ali (Utkarsh Ambudkar), the son of a Pakistani-American Muslim family whose father’s strict interpretation of Islam becomes apparent in its influence on Ali.
Coming from religions rooted in The Book, Dov and Ali primarily converse about books. Their debate over Lord of the Flies sets the tone for the play’s inquiry into the role of rigid adherence to law and authority in a community’s ability to survive. Ali’s conviction that united obedience maintains order is challenged by Dov’s question: isn’t it the dissenters who kept things in line?
These conversations launch Dov and Ali into the struggle between resting their faith in tradition or having faith in themselves. As their fathers’ steady hum of obedience rings in their ears, Dov and Ali’s struggle to make decisions independent of their religious traditions plays out in their relationships with the women in their lives.
Sonya (Heidi Armbruster), Dov’s girlfriend, and Sameh (Anitha Gandhi), Ali’s sister, are sources of great happiness for Dov and Ali. But when Sonya and Sameh challenge the men to have faith in their hearts, Dov and Ali sacrifice the women to their doubt. But rather than finding peace and pride in their decision to have faith in their father’s tradition, Dov and Ali are haunted by a new sense of life’s “incredible, indicible delicacy.”
Music only enters the play at the end, crashing violin strings, as Sameh stands trapped in white gauze curtains, being sacrificed at the back of the stage to life’s fragility. But in front of her, Ziegler leaves us with a message of hope: Sonya standing in anxious wait, as Dov thanks her for seeing him. Perhaps Dov has finally let go of his father’s tradition and begun to believe that the feeling in his heart, as a repentant Ali proposes towards the end of the play, is the true voice of God.
—Reviewed by Abigail Wendle
TOP: Anitha Gandhi (left, as Sameh) and Utkarsh Ambudkar (right, as Ali) in The Playwright’s Realm’s production of Anna Ziegler’s Dov and Ali. PHOTO COURTESY: ERIK PEARSON
BOTTOM: Adam Green (left, as Dov) and Heidi Armbruster (as Sonya) in The Playwright’s Realm’s production of Anna Ziegler’s Dov and Ali. PHOTO COURTESY: ERIK PEARSON