"Shelter," the latest work by Tmu-Na Theatre of Tel Aviv, takes place in an Israeli bomb shelter during the Gulf war. But one of its many strengths is that it demonstrates that there are many different kinds of shelters.
Primarily, of course, a shelter is a place of refuge, and refuge can be found in friendship, fantasy, escape, or simply the freedom to be oneself. The bomb shelter shared by three female strangers in this passionately visceral, 60-minute, movement-oriented piece -- receiving its American premiere at the Theatre Project -- offers all of these things.
And, considering the context -- not to mention the fact that the initial work was actually begun in a shelter -- the viewpoint is surprisingly non-partisan. The most overt politics are those of women's rights and, of course, the irrefutable view that war is hell.
The characters created by the company, under the co-direction of Nava Zukerman and Yael Sagie, verge on stereotypes. There's a nervous bride (Shirly Low Cohen) missing her own wedding; a subservient, repressed wife (Yael Dar); and a wild, free spirit (Ms. Sagie), who's just had a fight with her boyfriend.
But the details of their personal lives are far less important than the connection that is ultimately forged between them -- a connection powerfully portrayed through movement and dance, and one which teaches each of them a little more about herself.
Initially, the women not only have nothing in common, they make no effort to relate. Then Ms. Dar blurts out a painful realization about her stifling marriage, and the trio suddenly joins in song and dance.
This paves the way for an exhilarating scene in which all three enact fantasies totally opposite their personalities: The bride becomes a rock star; the cowed wife becomes a sexy sophisticate; and the earthy, liberated woman pretends to be Scarlett O'Hara, struggling to hang on to Rhett.
"Shelter" takes place in real time, and occasionally the actresses scurry through the aisles, making us feel as if we are in the shelter with them. You probably won't find yourself listening for missiles, but you'll leave with a better understanding of the plight of women in a war-torn nation.
When: Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m.; matinees Sundays at 3 p.m. Through Oct. 27.
Where: Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St.