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Flip the Script: Hanoch Levin, The Rubber Barons (A Tale of 30000 Condoms)

A hugely successful day: we moved the show out to Taliesin, put up the set, did a run-through, and found out that tomorrow’s rehearsal is cancelled, giving me a whole day free! Yay!

I had to return my copy of The Labor of Life and Other Selected Plays by Hanoch Levin to the library today, so I thought I’d flip through them and see what caught my eye. The first play that caught my eye was The Rubber Barons, mostly because of its subtitle. I also enjoyed The Child Dreams, but I think it would be way too depressing for a blog post, as much as I’d love to see how people would react to the mother flashing the ship captain and the closing scene with the chorus of dead children in the graveyard. So The Rubber Barons it is.

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Basics

The Rubber Barons (Socharei HaGoumi) was written by Hanoch Levin (1943-1999). The play was originally written in 1977 ib Hebrew. Its first production was in 1978 at the Cameri Theatre in Tel Aviv. Levin also directed.

Characters

  • Bella Barlow – 40s, a pharmacist.
  • Yohanan Tsingerboy – 40s, a clerk.
  • Shmuel Sprawl –  40s, a condom vendor.

Setting/Plot

We open on Bella’s drugstore where Yohanan is attempting to buy condoms. He actually sings this adorable little song called “The Hint Song” about them, a la that episode of The Golden Girls where they are shopping for the cruise. Side note, Yohanan also has two things: sixty thousand dollars in the bank and a thing for Bella. Shmuel, on the other hand, just inherited 10,000 Australian condoms from his deceased father and is trying to sell them to Bella at top dollar.

A weird sort of love triangle ensues. Yohanan wants Bella, but she’s not interested, even though they get naked in her apartment and it’s implied that they have sex, or at least a condom is utilized, as Bella says, “please, not on the carpet.” Once Bella learns about Yohanan’s money, she becomes attracted to him, but only for that, so she can rebuild her store. Shmuel and Yohanan do not have a sexual relationship, but they have a few weird scenes where they have long fantasy sequences about having sex with young, pretty girls from Texas. Shmuel shows up at Bella’s doorstep trying to sell her his condoms, and she kinda falls for him, but then falls out just as quickly. Yohanan comes back, and Bella resumes begging for his money, and he begs her to be with him. Finally, he hands over the money, but instantly regrets it. She becomes attracted to him, but the moment has passed for him. Everything kinda sucks at the end, and they still have a ton of condoms left.

My Thoughts

 


Works Cited:

Levin, Hanoch, The Rubber Barons (A Tale of 30,000 Condoms) in The Labor of Life and Other Selected Plays, trans. Barbara Harshav. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 2003.

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Thursday Trending: What’s Happening In My World This Week

Hey friends, sorry for being kinda absent this week from the blog; I feel like I’ve been absent in more ways than one. But there’s just been some not-so-fun stuff going on. Don’t worry, I am fine, it’s mostly in my head, I feel. Sorry as well for today’s post being on the personal side, and not so much on the fun side.

Someone told me recently that a month or two from now, whatever we are stressing out about at the moment will be but a memory. I don’t completely agree, but to an extent it is true. At least I hope it is, because if this keeps up, I’ll spend my summer hiding under the covers.

So, I thought I’d cheer myself up and maybe make some waves – or something like that – by giving a what’s hot and what’s not list of things that I’ve been into this week.

1. Green Smoothie.

I got this recipe from this awesome rabbi I met last week, and I’ve been drinking it every day. It sounds terrible but tastes incredible. Plus, the ingredients are cheaper than getting a Starbucks every day. I combine:

  • water
  • ice
  • almond milk
  • protein powder
  • honey
  • peanut butter or almond butter
  • banana
  • fill up the rest with fresh spinach leaves

Blend, and enjoy the fortifying vitamins. Yummo for the tummo, the heart, the joints, and the brain.

2. Rachel Sweet on Pandora.

I’ve adored Rachel Sweet for awhile, but only recently did I get the Rachel Sweet channel on Pandora, and it’s just the perfect mix of 1980s teenage angst, black leather jacket behind the malt shop, don’t-fuck-with-me soundtrack. Not only does it play the Rachel Sweet classics but some of her covers (“The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” “Shadows of the Night”) but also some people I like, like Toni Basil and The Go-Go’s. And some I didn’t know I liked, like Josie Cotton, Tracey Ullman, Chasing Furies, Virginia Coalition, Earth & Fire, St. Helena, and Kate Linne. When I was younger, I imagined my future self as someone who liked eclectic, obscure, ahead-of-the-curve music, or at least had a custom life soundtrack. This cuts it pretty darn close. There’s something for every mood, from not wanting to get out of bed in the morning to depressing times to party-for-one-in-my-living-room jams.

3. Panini bread.

Metcalfe’s panini bread is my bitchin’ food discovery. I eat one piece and it makes me feel both fancy and full.

4. Sitting up straight.

I woke up on Wednesday morning with a terrible pain in my shoulders, neck, and back. Laying in bed or on the couch only aggravated it, and reclining in the van and in class with a pillow wasn’t much better. However, I went running on Wednesday night, and though it initially hurt, the more I stuck my chest forward, the lesser the pain. I thought I was all better, but I woke up today just as stiff and sore. I didn’t do much in the way of activity until 2 PM, but when I finally got out of the apartment, I walked with my shoulders back and head forward, and it felt soooo good. Going to standard class tonight helped; I even got compliments on my frame for tango and foxtrot.

5. Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff.

Okay, this one’s probably going to become a regrettable addiction pretty soon, but at least the game makes it so that the further you go, the less frequently that you play it actually helps you get further. Good strategy, app-planners.

So there you have it, my yes-list for the week. And a half-decent post, or something.

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Two Amazing Things That Happened To Me At Target Today

First, they had Starkist canned tuna for under a dollar a can.

Then, at the checkout counter, I turned around, and the girl behind me was wearing a jacket that said “Sweet Scientists,” just like the team from The Amazing Race last season. She looked up from her phone, and it was Amy, half of the Sweet Scientists, the team that won the whole race and one million dollars. I said hey to her, and that the theatre tickets offer was still on the table. She looked at me and was like…”it’s you!”

Okay, so a bit of backstory. When they won, I emailed them my congratulations, and since we live in the same town and attend the same school, offered them my comp theatre tickets. They both sent nice responses, and that was about it, until this afternoon.

I introduced myself and we took the elevator down to the parking lot together. She told me all the awesome behind the scenes stuff about the show and we talked for like a half hour, in the Target parking garage.

And those are the two amazing things.

Is this amazing or is this amazing?

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Mid-April Life Update Post

I am so, so, incredibly tired right now from a busy few days, so I thought I’d just take a moment and do some free writing about how my day, and things in general, have been for me. Sorry if you enjoy my more didactic or literary or multimedia or humor-related posts, but I just need to be real for a moment. K?

So, how has it been for me lately?

Well, fantastic!

Weather-wise, that is.

I don’t have too much to complain about, though, I guess, except for the things I have to complain about. I’m so super nervous about re-mounting the show the week after next; it’s going to mean a lot of early mornings and opportunities to screw something up and make everyone hate me, so that’s no fun. My other classes are going okay, but a lot of questions about the future and the unknown occupy my time so much so that I forget about the here and now, the work that needs to get done and the reading I have to do, which seems to just pile up. In terms of dance, I leveled up in Latin, which was great, but I need to find a permanent partner for the fall if I want to continue competing, and maybe even look for some more outside lessons. Definitely need to exercise more, eat better, yada yada.

In other news, part of my MIA status this week is because I was picked (well, more like volunteered) to be a background dancer in a music video. I can’t say much more than the fact that it happened, that I danced waltz, and that we filmed today from 9 AM to 2 PM. Then, I went to present my paper at the department conference, which went fairly well, and then returned to the video shoot to help them out packing up, because I just didn’t want to go home and sit alone.

The summer and the fall semester are on their way, faster than I think. I still have no concrete plans for the summer, other than Montreal for ATHE and a possible trip home. Fall semester will be my first as a TA (I found out my assignment already, which is great), and of course, the beginning of the end of coursework, paving the way for prelims, pre-dissertation…

I think I’m going to need to invest in a good sturdy life jacket, or maybe just some good sturdy tequila.

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Thursday Night Sociopaths

My night was just ruined thanks to two separate complete sociopaths who did the same thing to me. 

1. Waiting in line, grabbed me by the waist to get around me.

2. Drunkenly walked up to where I was seated and put her drunk head on my back.

Never again am I going to out for a late night slice of pizza again. At the very least, carry out. 

God. 

My back is still tingling. I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep tonight. 

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The Naked and The Dead

Today, I went to the bank, ate a lot of cheese crackers, and went out to have a guy’s night with Shlomo at the movies. The Wisconsin Film Festival is in town, so we headed over to Hilldale to catch the only Israeli film in this year’s festival: The Farewell Party, a 2014 film directed by Tal Granit and Sharon Maymon, starring Ze’ev Revach, Levana Finkelstein, Aliza Rosen, Raffi Tavor, and Ilan Dar.

So long, farewell…

 

The film is a black comedy, dealing with aging and machine-assisted suicide, taking place in a Jerusalem retirement home. At the outset of the film, Yana (Aliza Rosen) calls upon her friend Yechezkel (Ze’ev Revach), a machinist and inventor, for a way to put her husband, Max – who is very old and very ill – out of his misery. A mutual friend, Rafi (Raffi Tavor) introduces Yechezkel to someone who can help: his lover Dr. Daniel (Ilan Dar), a veterinarian who has experience with sedatives and putting animals to sleep. Though initially apprehensive, Dr. Daniel eventually describes to Yechezkel the type of machine he’d need, and Yechezkel sets about to make it, a machine where pressing a button will administer a lethal dose of drugs. Yechezkel’s ladylike but dementia-suffering wife Levana (Levana Finkelstein, in a stunning performance), discovers the plans and almost blows their cover, but eventually acquiesces and becomes the fifth member of this unlikely death squad. Together, they videotape Max soberly acknowledging that this is how he wants to die, and presses the button, killing himself. To trick the nurses, Dr. Daniel briefly hooks up Rafi to Max’s heart monitor while waiting for him to flatline, and then replaces it and leaves with the rest of the group. They think that this is the end, but at Max’s funeral, a man called Dubek approaches Yana, telling her that he knows what happened (though not how) and begs for her to do the same for his ailing wife, Clara. After stalking the group at their retirement home, they acquiesce (all but Levana, who has become too emotionally fragile), and they do the same as they did to Max for Clara, who is in much better shape than they thought but presses the button anyway. Then there’s a weird musical interlude.

Meanwhile, Levana, who is frequently left alone, exhibits even more signs of dementia, doing things like putting her purse in the freezer, leaving the house with cookies burning in the oven, and eating pizza out of a garbage can. Levana and Yechezkel’s daughter, Noa, urges them to place Levana in a home for elderly dementia patients, but Yechezkel shuts her down, stubbornly refusing to see the signs of Levana’s illness until one day when Levana shows up for lunch in the nursing home dining hall completely naked. Upon returning back to her room with Yechezkel and Yana, Levana becomes hysterical, crying that she needs to be put in the home. Yechezkel then hatches a plan, taking Levana down to the nursing home’s greenhouse that night, where Yana, Rafi, and Dr. Daniel are all naked and smoking marijuana. The two join in the fun until they are caught by a security guard and warned by a social worker, who recommends that Levana go into the home for the mentally disabled.

The group unites again (sans Levana, and Yechezkel, who is taking care of her) to head to a kibbutz to use the suicide machine on their 89-year-old friend Zelda. As soon as Zelda presses the button, a fuse blows and the machine dies. Rafi calls Yechezkel to come and fix it, but since he’s promised Noa that he won’t leave Levana alone, he takes her with him to the kibbutz where once again, the machine blows a fuse when Zelda presses the button. Then after a choir sings outside Zelda’s window, she briefly reconsiders her decision before pressing the button a third time, again blowing a fuse.

We then cut to the parking lot, where we learn that the machine didn’t work and Zelda changed her mind anyway. Zelda’s brother runs out to the group in the parking lot, saying that 5000 shekel has gone missing from Zelda’s money, and though the group thinks Levana accidentally took it, Rafi is revealed to having taken it, as well as money from Max and from Clara. A furious Yechezkel wrestles Rafi to the ground, injuring himself in the process.

Soon after, Levana and Yechezkel visit the home that Noa and the social worker suggested, but find it to be a sterile environment where everyone is a vegetable. Levana reveals that this is all too much for her, and she tells Yechezkel she wants to be the machine’s next victim. Yana tells Yechezkel that he should let his wife die in dignity, with the machine. Furious, Yechezkel destroys the machine.

Later, Yechezkel leaves Levana alone for a short time while he goes and discusses what has happened with the other three, returning to discover her in bed, unconscious. The group rushes her to the hospital, where she is revived but reveals that she purposely overdosed in an attempt to kill herself. Yechezkel suddenly sees how much his wife is suffering, and builds a new machine. In the closing scene, the group stands around Levana’s bed as she apologizes to Noa and tells her not to be angry with her father, and that she is deciding herself to die with dignity. The camera then zooms in on her as Yechezkel leans over for a last kiss and her finger presses then button and the film ends.

Shlomo and I had vastly different perspectives on the film. I mean, we saw the same points, but I saw more of the comic elements than he did. I guess I just took the movie at face value. True, the story is incredibly depressing, but the idea of a bunch of old people inventing a machine to kill people, going around and doing it, and getting naked and high along the way kind of made it feel like a screwball comedy for the geriatric. At some points, I was the one doing the dying, dying laughing, that is; Zelda’s three failed attempts at activating the machine and her comments after the room went dark, Levana putting her purse in the freezer, and of course, the naked greenhouse scene, which was actually kind of sweet, knowing that Yechezkel orchestrated it so that his wife would feel less awkward about the whole naked-lunch thing.

As I said earlier, Levana Finkelstein’s portrayal of Levana was absolutely stunning; she really wowed me with her spiral into madness. Ze’ev Revach as protagonist Yechezkel and Aliza Rosen’s tough-as-nails Yana were also fun to watch, and the playful relationship between the two widows (well, one at the beginning of the film and one at the very end) made Levana’s character all the more interesting. In terms of production values, some great camera work and excellent use of color, with whites and hospital-like pastel blues and greens contrasting with the dark shadows that the characters always seemed to be in, as if their wrinkles were intended to be accentuated at every turn.

I don’t have too much criticism for the film, even though I saw what was coming at the end. Oh, and the opening credits went on way too long, as well as the opening bit with Zelda and Yechezkel on the phone. Overall, it had a good mix of moments that were humorous and moments that were heartbreaking.

It gets four stars from me.

And I think I ate about a hundred cheese crackers as I wrote this.