Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Band's Visit *** B+

Atlantic Theater Company is presenting this musical adaptation of the popular 2007 Israeli film about an Egyptian police band that inadvertently becomes stranded overnight in an isolated town while on a goodwill visit to Israel. The music and lyrics are by David Yazbek (The Full Monty) and the book is by Itamar Moses (Bach at Leipzig). The songs are well-integrated into the story with much of the music being performed by actors playing band members. The book, faithful to the screenplay almost to a fault, incorporates large chunks of dialog from the film. It is virtually impossible to develop 20 characters in any depth in 95 minutes even without making time for a dozen songs. In some cases, we get a bare sketch, but in others, the characterization actually goes deeper than in the film. The show is greatly enhanced by a fine cast and high production values. Katrina Lenk makes an excellent Dina. John Cariani (Something Rotten!) brings richness to the role of Itzik. Ari’el Stachel is just right as the band’s young hunk Haled. George Abud and Sam Sadigursky are standouts as actor-musicians. Last but not least, Tony Shalhoub brings dignity and compassion to the role of Tewfiq, the bandleader. The evocative scenic design by Scott Pask (Something Rotten!) makes effective use of a revolving stage. Sarah Laux’s (The Humans) costumes fit their characters well. The direction by David Cromer (Tribes, Our Town) is fluid and assured. The result is an intimate, engaging show with an edge of poignancy. I could not suppress a twinge of regret over how badly the situation in Egypt and Israel has deteriorated since 1996, the year in which the story is set. Running time: one hour, 35 minutes; no intermission.

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