Treating death lightly

Updated: 2013-03-08 07:33

By Sun Ye (China Daily)

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 Treating death lightly

A scene from Cameri Theatre's drama The Suitcase Packers. Su Guanming / For China Daily

There are many morbid plays but very few focus on funerals. The Suitcase Packers, a 30-year-old work by Hanoch Levin, is one of them.

The 90-minute show portrays a total of eight funerals. The first one is seen barely 5 minutes into the performance.

Questions such as, "I wonder what is between me and death", and, "How should I live my life?" keep popping up throughout the play.

But do not be mistaken, The Suitcase Packers is far from being a macabre tale.

It's a light comedy that dramatizes familiar scenes and people you think you'd known.

There is a henpecked husband, an indiscriminate dandy, a longing spinster, and the usual lot that a neighborhood must have. Their typical small-town folk behaviors keep the audience in stitches.

The 1983 play is reproduced by Cameri Theatre, a Tel Aviv troupe that operates from a spartan setting in a run-down neighborhood.

Apart from funerals, among the emotional peaks of the comedy are unrequited love, making room for new babies, and finding bridge-playing partners.

Pu Cunxin, vice-president of the Beijing People's Art Theater and an acting celebrity in his own right, says the play shows the wisdom of Israel through the small deeds of its people.

"It's a play of the common people, but you can sense the influence of the country and the history. In dealing with life and death, their way is very poetic, as if on a cloud," he says.

He compared The Suitcase Packers to Lao She's Teahouse, the Chinese drama that encompasses a momentous change of times in the running of an ordinary teahouse.

"For those who played in and saw Teahouse, it's so natural to empathize. Such emotions are the same universally," he says.

Frisch V., an Israeli in Beijing who was among the first to book tickets, describes the play as "realistic". "It is exactly how some Israelis live. They always want to go to another place for a better life. It's so familiar."

Qiao Yi, a musician who was drawn to the performance after seeing the theater's 2012 play Requiem, says the play was simply "too good for words to describe".

The Suitcase Packers was staged in the Capital Theater until March 6 to commemorate the 70th birthday of Hanoch Levin and the Israeli theater festival.

The Capital Theater is also presenting another Israeli play, Don Juan by the Gesher Theatre, from March 8 to 10.

(China Daily 03/08/2013 page18)