When I first wrote about the None Too Fragile theater group, I mistakenly said that the black box theater has 40 seats. Turns out there are twice that many. The closeness to the action makes the place seem tighter.
That intimacy comes to the fore in None Too Fragile’s current production of Karen Sunde’s “How His Bride Came to Abraham.”
Picture the set – a sizable mound of dirt sloped toward the audience with large stones placed upstage and a pot of steaming potatoes stage right. When the action begins, the two characters of Abraham (played by Gabe Riazi) and Sabra (Leighann Niles Delorenzo) scuffle, no make that fight in the dirt. You can smell and feel the dust. Later they add a can of pre-packaged meat to the pot and serve up a beef stew that smells delicious.
Those kinds of things lend verisimilitude to Karen Sunde’s stark tale of a wounded Israeli soldier and a Palistinian terrorist who are drawn together in the midst of a battle in a kind of no man’s land.
Reality also creeps into this play by thinking of current media headlines about the multi-national problems in the Middle East. The no man’s land of the setting seems more significant since both sides claim that the other isn’t actually entitled to it.
The vying for homeland and a sense of place underlines the tensions between the characters. Abraham and Sabra come to a truce and help each other, even protect and care for one another in striking contrast to the fighting. But they are ever mindful that they have been reared to be enemies; the politics of the land and their families and ancestors keep surfacing to remind these two to be wary.
In “How His Bride Came to Abraham,” Riazi and Niles Delorenzo superbly carry off the strident and intermixed emotions that seem to swell up – anger, hatred, revenge and scorn on one side and on the other caring, protectiveness, sympathy, and ultimately love and lust.
There’s a scene where Abraham and Sabra make love. You don’t see anything more than you might on a public beach in terms of nudity and lovers locked in embrace, but these two actors provide a chemistry that ignites the stage.
Sunde’s story is a tale where sworn enemies learn of and through each other’s essential goodness. That knowledge can’t hold, not with the forces that the characters are up against. The ending is ultimately a tragedy but is also, sadly, a product of inevitable logic.
Sunde does not take sides in the drama. Maybe because the conflict seems to be impossibly complex. Director Sean Derry, who co-founded None Too Fragile with Alanna Romansky and Jaysen Mercer, found ways to keep the pace going. The 90-minute drama, told without intermission, flew by.
“How His Bridge Came to Abraham” will be performed on Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m. through December 8 in its location at Pub Bricco, 1835 Merriman Rd., Akron; 330-671-4563; www.nonetoofragile.com. Tickets are $20 or pay as you can.