The quiet brilliance of The Band’s Visit has remained with me nearly a month after seeing it. On a surface level, it’s a story about an Egyptian band that gets on the wrong bus and finds themselves in a small town in Israel. In the morning, the Band gets on a bus and leaves. Not a big deal at all. In fact, when you enter the theater “Once not long ago, a group of musicians came to Israel from Egypt. You probably didn’t hear about it. It wasn’t very important” is projected onto the stage. This is in stark contrast to a majority of shows that feature high stakes. Of the shows currently running, this and The True are the most similar in their examination of the individual experience.
This is not a feel good fish out of water story. It is a realistic and honest portrayal of the human experience. Though it is based off of a movie, the story and staging is entirely unique. Both silence and music are fully formed characters that highlight the loneliness of both parties.
Between the Band and the Israelis, the characters with similar traumas find each other. Both Papi and Haled find their love lives in a constant purgatory. Haled’s life has been determined by his parents, and Papi can’t even talk to his crush. Both are in a state of helplessness. Haled is able to guide Papi through “Haled’s Song About Love” breathtakingly performed by Ari’el Stachel. Dina and Tawfiq are drawn to each other through their shared loss. She sees him as an escape, but he is unable to move past his loss. Searching for some validation, some connection, just something, Haled and Dina kiss and he carries her offstage.
The show concludes with the only song, “Answer Me,” performed by the entire cast. “Only you. When the sun and moon and stars are gone, all that’s left is only you. Will you answer me?” In the end, isn’t that all we want.
The Band’s Visit was a profound 90 minutes of theater. What shows resonated with you?
Banner Image Credit: Matthew Murphy