The Freedom Theater presents this passionate retelling of the story of the 2002 siege of Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, during the height of the second intifada. More…
Drawn from interviews with survivors, 'The Siege' is told from the point of view of some of the armed Palestinian fighters who found refuge in the church. Along with 200 civilians, they were given sanctuary by the church’s resident priests and nuns and spent 39 days there with dwindling food, water, and medical supplies. While the world watched, the fighters grappled with survival, ideology, and the decision to continue the struggle to the end, or surrender. Performed in Arabic with English subtitles.
"The power of 'The Siege' is that it is told not with rage or rancor, not to punish or vindicate – but to remind us...A riveting 90-minute drama...Between scenes, video footage is projected on the upstage wall depicting the actual events of the siege. The effect is spellbinding and deeply moving...We feel the complexity and agony of the larger, seemingly endless conflict...This gripping, unforgettable story is being told by those who have earned the privilege to tell it." Full Review
“You need not agree with that version of events to appreciate the work’s raw theatrical power. For ‘The Siege’ is indeed a skillful piece of agitprop that entertains no doubts about the rightness of its cause. It is also a gripping portrayal of the chaos, terror and tedium of battle...The combatants all remain a little too selfless and indomitable throughout...Stirring up such debates is exactly what political theatre is for. On that count, 'The Siege' succeeds hands down." Full Review
"'The Siege' is muddled, as both agitprop and drama. That may be a good thing, for as a work of human interest on a canvas of exposed nerves, the play has its compelling moments...The script and the direction are diffuse and undifferentiated, the personalities of each character not so much ill-defined as interchangeable...The play feels seriously underpopulated...I left feeling neither outraged nor radicalized, but only deeply dispirited. I think that’s as it should be." Full Review
"“A gutsy play...There are moments between cultures which are truly poignant and thought provoking. Yet for all the humanity at stake, it is challenging to follow the narrative...It would have been helpful to offer more background and context within the production itself...On technical levels, 'The Siege' surpasses many Broadway quality shows...In spite of the shortcomings, one must admire the audacious spirit that inspires these artists and this company.” Full Review
"This study of soldiers waiting out the standoff with diminishing supplies and stamina takes a naturalistic and overtly didactic approach...Dialogue that emphasizes exposition and theme over individual character...Despite the intrinsic suspense of the setup and the likability of the performers, ‘The Siege’ often registers as sincere but static, like an animated chapter from a partisan history book.” Full Review
"The focus is on the emotions of the six men in the church, which makes it more important that the characters be fleshed out. But there are only a few tantalizing moments when their individuality emerges...The competent stagecraft goes only so far in driving the play forward; the few vivid attempts at specific characterization suggest how much deeper a drama 'The Siege' could have been." Full Review
for a previous production "Such overt ‘Political’ theatre as this always runs the risk of sliding into flat didacticism...This is a risk that 'The Siege' admirably avoids. The six-man cast give a stunningly human and surprisingly warm performance...It was a brave and worthy move to present a play that invites empathy with fighters on a human level...One would struggle to find a more authentic piece of theatre, or indeed one that speaks to such a brutally urgent case of injustice." Full Review
for a previous production "The play...blurs the line between art and a lived reality of human beings in extremis. This is war and resistance at its most visceral and terrifying. We share the hurt, pain, hopes, humor, and dreams of these men...There are no gimmicks, narrative or point-of-view sleights of hand...It is a heart-wrenching, profound cri de coeur from the heart of the occupation...The actors, without any visible artifice, reveal the character of these men in all their humanity...A triumph." Full Review
for a previous production "The Freedom Theatre floods the imagination of their audience with a eulogy to resistance...Though not devoid of political agenda, this is an attempt to redress...the misrepresentation of the nature of Palestinian resistance...The six actors capture the subtle sense of their struggle’s futility in the face of an occupying force...This is not a clarion call to arms; it is an invitation to think, to learn, to share in the experience of the untold story." Full Review
for a previous production "As performed by an all male cast of six, there is an impassioned partisan rawness...as we flit between the siege itself and the men's lives afterwards far from their homeland. The latter is told simply and directly without contrition, and when the tour guide takes a selfie with the audience, it's as if the entire world is captured in its light." Full Review
for a previous production “A passionate, unashamedly partisan and ultimately affecting retelling of the story of the 2002 siege…This is not the greatest of plays: there is little individual characterization…the action sometimes stutters and lacks fluidity…Even so, it develops into an unexpectedly compelling theatrical experience with a rough and ready energy, and, in the very act of its telling, speaks for the voiceless and forgotten. It also raises some knotty philosophical questions.” Full Review
See it if you want to see a totally fresh take on a familiar political standoff -- from a different point of view.
Don't see it if you are not prepared to shed stereotypes and change your western tunnel vision about the middle east.
See it if you're interested in a better understand of political, historical events affected by deep rooted conflicts. Play humanizes the situation.
Don't see it if you're turned off by biased political discourses or need a lot of action
See it if you want to see a realistic and recent portrayal of what living and fighting through war is like.
Don't see it if you're not into theatre in another language about hot-button political topics.
See it if you want intense drama about a lesser-known event in the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict. Strong acting in taut (albeit repetitive) play.
Don't see it if you're not prepared for intense rage, violence, and despair among those under siege -- or a play in Arabic with English supertitles.
See it if you like one dimensional characters who spout cliches while having to read subtitles that don't keep up with the script.
Don't see it if you want a dramatic play with characters of depth, understanding their motivations beyond superficial declarations.
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