Dov and Ali

Anna Ziegler
Theatre 503
(2008)

It's a strange and complicated world we live in today where our differences both separate and unite us, where our desire to love can breed hate and where our own survival is often dependant on the demise of others.

Anna Ziegler's new play Dov and Ali is an acutely observed exploration of the hypocrisies that not only surround us but engulf us today. Set in an urban school in Detroit, Ali (James Floyd) and his English teacher Dov (Ben Turner) go round in a vicious circle as they debate the unanswered questions of life. Why are we here? What effect do religious beliefs have on one's life; should they determine it or merely enhance it? All the while the pair are both struggling with their own personal demons.

Ali lives by the Koran and swears to live an honest life. However, he has a secret about his sister that he is not quite prepared to admit to and take ownership of. Dov is struggling with his Jewish faith and, in reaching out for God, he alienates those closest to him.

Ziegler's script packs a powerful punch and under the direction of Alex Sims the dialogue is practically bouncing off the walls with energy. Throughout Ziegler draws parallels between Dov and Ali who whilst fighting each other are essentially fighting themselves. Ali's questioning of Dov is relentless as he begs for him to define himself so as he can make sense of the world; sending Dov into turmoil.

James Floyd's Ali is a precocious teenager; on the surface completely sure of himself, yet unsure of everything at the same time. Turner is articulate and razor sharp as he carefully balances arrogance with naivety. As Ali tortures himself he projects his own fears of uncertainty onto an already uncertain Dov. Turner's Dov slowly unravels before your very eyes, as he struggles with his Jewish guilt. His confusion and desperation are tangible and painful to watch.

Parallels are also drawn between the characters and the text that they are studying in class, Lord of the Flies. A constant backdrop is the school whiteboard with questions such as "who is the beast?" scrawled across it. There are statements comparing the character Piggy to the sacrificed pig and words such as "victimisation" are hard to ignore.

Dov and Ali delicately explores the oppressive nature of religion whilst avoiding being sanctimonious or "preachy" in anyway. As Ziegler delves further we see the effect on the women in these men's lives, Ali's sister Sameh (Kiran Landa) whose boyfriend the family disapprove of, and Dov's non-Jewish girlfriend Sonya (Orla Fitzgerald). It appears that everyone in this play is somehow a victim; simultaneously through their own doing and also through no fault of their own. Landa and Fitzgerald are equally superb in their portrayal of women who are in essence the virtual opposites of these two men. Through circumstance they must be strong, or at least try to fight a situation which is completely out of their control.

An incredibly moving play that challenges notions of freedom, expectations and ultimately forgiveness, Dov and Ali does not seek to answer any questions; it merely shines a stark and uncompromising light upon them.

Running until 5th July

Rachel Sheridan