League of Nathans

By the way, I went to see "The League of Nathans" tonight (after a nice dinner at Trattoria Italia), a recent play by Jason Sherman at the Great Canadian Theatre Company. It's about three Jewish kids who grew up and went their separate ways.

If you are going to see this play, don't read any furthur if you want to be surprised.

Play Description - Growing Up then Meeting Many Years Later

The first half of the play is about their growing up, worrying about Bar Mitzvah (a ritual of accepting religious responsibility) and other ordinary concerns, with a Jewish Canadian twist. The second half is about their meeting in Spain 13 years later, set up by the middle one after he misses the happiness and sense of meaningfulness from their boyhood group.

One became a happy (even with death on his conscience) settler in Israel, after being exposed to Arab hate in Canada. Another became a middle class family man, wondering if there was more to life, but happy to show off his wife and kids and house, and indirectly funding the settler. The third drifted from religion and became a teacher with a hobby of writing stories based on the old testament. He was upset at the settler for taking up violence rather than accepting bad things, but he fell apart after the settler asked him what he had done in his life (condone is the word here).

There was some excellent story telling to one of the children by the old uncle (well played stereotypical old Jewish man's voice and mannerisms), who had gone through World War 2. There were some war stories but most were biblical stories, giving God a voice (answering Noah's questions about the destruction of the flood, by asking if Noah had thought of the people who would be killed while building his boat, for example).

The same actor also played a watch salesman, who exclusively pestered Jewish people, explaining the usefulness of knowing the time (like when crashing into the ocean and being asked to provide coordinates). The middle class one was sobbered up when he noticed the number on the watch salesman's wrist (a Nazi death camp serial number).

Deep Thoughts

Anyway, what did I get out of it? Other people thought it was a really good tragedy. I just saw it as a slice of life, an atmospheric impression of recent Jewish culture in Canada.

The one thing that I dug up after looking for deeper meaning was that Jewish culture's tradition of questioning everything (there was a fair bit of this in the play) may be an intelligence booster for some people (at least it gives more flexability/range when thinking). But if you look at the old testament, they were very punishing of questioning in the distant past. So, the question is: When did Jewish culture start questioning???

- Alex

Copyright © 1999 by Alexander G. M. Smith.