Theater & dance

Stages

In ‘Days of Atonement,’ the ties that bind are seriously frayed

Gy Mirano, Adrianne Krstansky, Scott Pinkney, and Adele Traub at a rehearsal for “Days of Atonement” at Israeli Stage.
Anna Olivella
Gy Mirano, Adrianne Krstansky, Scott Pinkney, and Adele Traub at a rehearsal for “Days of Atonement” at Israeli Stage.

When four estranged sisters reunite to search for their missing mother, each woman’s understanding of their parents turns out to be surprisingly different.

“That experience in which siblings have completely different recollections of exactly the same experience is so universal, no matter where you come from,” says Adrianne Krstansky, who stars in “Days of Atonement,” Israeli Stage’s US premiere of playwright Hanna Azoulay-Hasfari’s darkly comic look at sibling rivalries and family ties.

“Also, these women stubbornly continue to see each other as they were when they lived in the house together, as children rather than the complicated adults they have become,” says Krstansky, who plays Evelyn, the second eldest sister, an Orthodox Jew and the mother of eight daughters.

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Amira, the youngest sister, an aspiring filmmaker who has retreated from the big city of Tel Aviv to the family apartment in the small town of Netivot in southern Israel, calls her sisters to tell them her mother has given their home back to the public housing company and she hasn’t seen her in hours. As they try to understand what happened — to their mother now and to them as children — old resentments resurface.

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Evelyn and Amira are joined by Malka, the eldest, who is married to a mechanic, and Fanny, a divorced businesswoman.

“I have been a fan of Hanna’s work for years and was so grateful to have her as an artist-in-residence last year,” says Guy Ben-Aharon, director of “Days of Atonement” and artistic director for Israeli Stage. “The women in this play are dynamic and aggressive; they are strong Sephardic Moroccan Jews, an ethnic minority in Israel.”

That exploration of the Moroccan-Israeli minority immigrant experience also appealed to Ben-Aharon.

“We tend to focus on our own story of the immigrant experience,” he says. “We don’t tie it with other countries or cultures.”

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To add to the story’s complexity, Ben-Aharon has cast an ethnically diverse quartet of actresses to play the sisters. In addition to Krstansky, the cast includes Ramona Lisa Alexander, Gy Mirano, and Dana Stern.

“We’re broadening the experience,” says Ben-Aharon. “We’re interested in exploring sisterhood, more than just these specific sisters.”

In addition, Ben-Aharon says, the play doesn’t follow the usual Aristotelian structure of rising action, climax, and denouement, instead following the more individual ebbs and flows of each sister.

“People have their own inner storms that are brewing,” he says. “Not everybody is having the same weather at the same time. The challenge is to follow where the storm is at any given moment, and allow each sister to react to the other.”

Although all of the action is set in the living room-kitchen-bedroom area of a modest apartment, Ben-Aharon says it’s been important to him and designer Cristina Todesco to strip away much of the naturalistic “kitchen sink drama” elements.

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“Cristina and I see these women as gladiators in an arena,” says Ben-Aharon. “Each woman has a stake in how they are accepted. Each woman is tied to her idea of her mother and her home, and yet is also trying to break away from it.”

“Days of Atonement,” says Ben-Aharon, is a compact play that encompasses a big world of ideas. “All of these women are looking for a solid foundation beneath their feet,” he says. “That search is universal.”

Flush with excitement over ‘Job’

Setting a play in a bathroom has its challenges, says director Robert Walsh, who opens the Gloucester Stage Company season with “Bank Job” (May 19-June 10), a comic caper that finds the thieves stuck in the bathroom. “Executive washroom, actually,” says Walsh. “Think Brooks Bros.-style alumni club — something that reeks of age and respectability.”

Gloucester Stage’s small playing area works well for Jon Savage’s set design, says Walsh, except that the audience is so close that effects like gunshots, breaking glass, hand washing, and um, toilet flushing have to be realistic without being too realistic.

“I fell in love with the script,” says Walsh, “and what’s more fun than opening the season with a farce?”

Huntington hires MoCA architect

At Monday’s Elliot Norton Awards, Huntington Theater Company managing director Michael Maso proudly welcomed the audience to “the Huntington Theatre.” The theater, formerly the Boston University Theatre, has officially become the property of the Huntington Theatre Company, and the theater company has in turn hired Bruner/Cott & Associates to restore the historic space, while the two buildings surrounding it undergo a separate commercial development.

Based in Cambridge, Bruner/Cott has won numerous awards for its ability to infuse innovative design with historic preservation, notably at Mass MoCA and most recently the Lunder Arts Center at Lesley University.

Audiences will begin to see changes with the start of Huntington’s 2017-18 season in September, while plans for an extensive renovation are underway.

DAYS OF ATONEMENT

Presented by Israeli Stage. At Deane Hall, Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts, June 1-25. Tickets $43.50, 617-933-8600, www.bostontheatrescene.com

Terry Byrne can be reached at trbyrne@aol.com.