Gabrielle, and director Kat Singleton work hard to enliven the “script” and keep us focused on the story. There is a push for humor and charm at the beginning that feels a bit forced but Gabrielle eases into it and her Hannah is full of joy and passion, song and poetry. Singleton keeps Gabrielle at this same note from age 13 to 21 when we suddenly see a shift in personality and maturity. The material feels like there should be another change in between, at 17 or 18 when she goes to Palestine to become a farmer. Anything Singleton could have done to massage more theater into the piece would have been welcome.
What I left with were many questions, and giving your audience fodder for discussion is always a good choice. How does a young girl, educated in private schools, gifted in music and language, become an extremist who heads off to the desert to farm? (Hannah joining the resistance was a much easier leap to make.) How do you continue to believe in an all-powerful god who loves you when you are being beaten, tortured, raped? If it is the noble and the good who end up dead in war because they won’t compromise, what characteristics does that leave us in those who survive to continue our species? Does dying young always lend gravitas to what we leave behind?
The technical aspects of the piece were lovely. Seth Jackson’s light played beautifully on the diaphanous set pieces and the storm was striking. The parachute jump is an interesting piece of theatricality. Michele Friedman Siler’s costumes were apt for the period and moved through time as necessary. I only wish the script lived up to all the work that surrounded it.
I applaud a desire to bring the story of Hannah Senesh to an audience. Perhaps a movie, or a full-length play where we see the other characters in her life would flesh this story out in an interesting fashion. The fact that Hannah Senesh was nominated for a Drama Desk Award only befuddles me further.
Hannah Senesh continues at the Marvin & Harlene Wool Theater through December 22nd.