Martin Cohen’s intense new drama Checkpoint, which opened Feb. 1 at the Wildish Community Theater in Springfield, meticulously dissects both sides of the conflict that has wracked Israel and Palestine for half a century.
Told through the eyes of two families, one on each side of the West Bank divide, Checkpoint deftly sketches the unsolvable paradox that results when two closely related peoples violently maintain a religious and historical claim to the same land.
Robert Hirsh directs a cast that includes some of Eugene’s best performers, including Bary Shaw, who plays Peretz, an Israeli government official and Orthodox Jew who has lost two sons in the conflict, and Denise LaCroix as Hinda, his wife.
Perhaps the most interesting character is Peretz’ eldest son, Avi (Tony Stirpe), a soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces who has just gotten out of jail after a crisis of conscience led him to refuse army orders.
Hirsh himself does a fine turn as Hassan-Al-Ahmad, an imam and political go-between who arranges the critical meeting that serves as the story’s climax.
The play is performed on a minimalist set — designed by Hirsh — and the story itself is similarly stripped down to core political issues.
While that keeps the action moving, it also means that Checkpoint — a semi-finalist in the 2017 Ashland New Play Festival — suffers from its own intensity. None of the characters seems to have a life outside politics and conflict, and too much of the play’s dialogue sounds like a sharp op-ed being read out loud.
Martin Cohen’s Checkpoint continues through Feb. 17 at the Wildish Community Theater in Springfield. Tickets are $19, $17 students, at WildishTheater.com.