A Pigeon and a Boy

‘A Pigeon and a Boy’ talkback notes

A biblical pigeon hunt and a pro/con character assessment (with spoilers!) for JTC's current play.

Some plays make me laugh. Some make me cry. But the Jewish Theatre Collaborative‘s A Pigeon and a Boy is the first to send me thumbing through the Old Testament for pigeon references.

The play is a “first” in many ways: a world premiere stage adaptation of Meir Shalev’s novel of the same name, adapted in-house by director Sacha Reich and Doren Elias. It’s the culmination of the JTC’s “Page2Stage” season, an immersive book club experience that started last fall with staged readings of the first chapter and continued last month with a series of “footnote” excerpts from Israeli authors.

Nick Ferrucci, Chantal DeGroat, and Sam Dinkowitz briefly portray a group of British tourists, searching the sky for every sort of bird but the titular pigeon. credit: Friderike Heuer

Nick Ferrucci, Chantal DeGroat, and Sam Dinkowitz briefly portray a group of British tourists, searching the sky for every sort of bird but the titular pigeon. credit: Friderike Heuer

As a Johnny-come-lately who’s not (yet) read the novel, I can’t say how well the play serves the original text…but the experience of watching it is undeniably novel-esque. Characters are connected by especially deep familial, romantic, and ideological ties. Specters from the past breathe down the necks of people in the present; sins of fathers are conspicuously visited upon their children; archetypes and icons abound. The story spans a broad scope of time, with two generations elapsing in as many hours—but time can also stand still. At key moments, the actors freeze-frame, narrating flashes of realization. Twice—at the beginning and near the end—a pigeon rises and hangs in the air, book-ending the plot between furtive twin wingbeats like angels flanking the arc of the covenant. The novel begat this play, but parts of the Bible obviously begat the novel. And that’s what sent me on my scriptural pigeon-hunt.

Bob Hicks, having marked the play’s creative development more closely than I, wrote an excellent review last week for ArtsWatch. If you have yet to see the play, or to read Shalev’s text, by all means head straight to Bob’s review. But if you’re already familiar with the story and crave more biblical and social context, read on. SPOILER ALERT: The following analysis, inspired by opening weekend’s Sunday talkback, unveils surprises from the plot.

“We’d simply like to start the conversation,” explained Reich as she perched on the edge of the stage alongside Kenneth Gordon after the epic play had run its course. “What struck you? What do you wonder about?”

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A pigeon, a boy, a novel night onstage

Jewish Theatre Collaborative's literary drama takes flight into the heart of home

“That novel just came to life for me!” I overheard a fellow theatergoer exclaim happily as I worked through the crowd at Milagro Theatre on Saturday night after the opening performance of the Jewish Theatre Collaborative’s A Pigeon and a Boy.

Well, yes, it did – and in some interesting ways. She might have meant the story itself swept her off her feet. And she might have meant she loved seeing good actors step inside the story and bring its characters into heart-thumping, flesh-and-blood reality.

Muñoz, DeGroat, Dinkowitz: ready to fly. Photo: Friderike Heuer

Muñoz, DeGroat, Dinkowitz: ready to fly. Photo: Friderike Heuer

Both were reasonable responses to JTC’s performance, a world-premiere stage adaptation of the Israeli writer Meir Shalev’s time-hopping novel about a rumpled, aging tour guide in contemporary Israel and the unlikely love story of a pair of young pigeon-handlers during the 1948 war of independence. A Pigeon and a Boy ripples with themes of home and belonging, issues that are intensely potent in Israel and the Middle East. But onstage the tale’s metaphors play second fiddle to a more basic and immediate dramatic impulse: how’s life going to work out for these characters right here in front of my face?

And that strikes me as a good thing.

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