Progress Festival Review: Marathon

Israeli performance piece doesn't make it to the finish line

MARATHON conceived, choreographed and directed by Aharona Israel. Presented by SummerWorks in partnership with the Theatre Centre (1115 Queen West) as part of Progress: International Festival of Performances and Ideas. Continues Thursday (February 5), 7:30 pm (in Hebrew) and Friday (February 6), 7:30 pm (in English). $30, stu/srs $20. 416-538-0988, Rating: NN

I will say this about Marathon, the Israeli performance piece that kicked off the inaugural Progress Festival last night: its cast is probably the fittest currently on a Toronto stage.

They have to be, because for one hour, the three performers (Ilya Domanov, Merav Dagan, Gal Shamai) are required to run around the Theatre Centre Mainstage hundreds of times, occasionally breaking out into stylized movements when one of them says things like “Grenade!” (ducking for cover), “Hora!” (dancing) and “Remember!” (mimicking prayer and reflection). All without getting out of breath.

I imagine these outbursts, combined with the fact that they’re “running in circles” – they occasionally backtrack and go the other way – are meant to symbolize something. The repetitive nature of their lives (of anyone’s life, really) the Sisyphean nature of trying to achieve peace in the Middle East the complexity of contemporary Israeli life.

But that’s being generous to Aharona Israel, who conceived, choreographed and directed the show.

It’s really three people – in marathon gear, complete with assigned numbers – doing a lot of running and occasionally speaking. Sure, there are a few attempts to establish character. Ilya, for instance, is a Russian immigrant who had a bad relationship with his father, and he discusses wanting to have a better rapport his own son Merav keeps mentioning her lisp, and also that she got out of military service to dance, in contrast to the cocky Shamai, who enjoyed his time spent doing service.

Disagreements arise the runners become competitive and/or give up. But these feel contrived there’s just not enough going on. And the neither the text nor the movement pays off at the end. At one point the three performers ask audience members for their cellphones, but then proceed to not do very much with them.

Earlier, one of the performers takes an aggressive stance and asks people in the audience, “Any weapons?” Those two words have more tension and dramatic potential than much of the show.

But watching three people burn calories is a good reminder to exercise, albeit with a clearer goal in mind.

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