Guy Ben-Aharon, an Israeli-born, American theater director, was tired of hearing complaints that current theater wasn't reaching the public. He decided to breach convention and take an Israeli comedy on the road across the East Coast.
Ben-Aharon, an Emerson College graduate, founded the Boston-based Israeli Stage Company 5 years ago. He now serves as its Producing Artistic Director.
Israeli Stage, whose aim is to bring Israeli theater and culture to American audiences, produces staged readings of Israeli plays. Since their inaugural season in 2010-2011, they have launched over 15 such productions.
After initially presenting “Oh, God” in Boston in 2013, Ben-Aharon decided to take the play, an 85-minute, two-person comedy by the Israeli dramatist Anat Gov, on tour. Performances are scheduled for Maryland, New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and, tentatively, Florida.
Playwright Anat Gov, the late wife of entertainer and singer Gidi Gov, passed away in December 2012 after a long battle with cancer. She left a significant imprint on Israeli theatre with such plays as, Best Friends, Lysistrata, Househusband, Oh, God, A Warm Family and Happy Ending.
During production, Ben-Aharon discovered that universities, in particular, were eager to bring in programming that could be entertaining and thought provoking. “We’ve done it at a dozen academic institutions, and the response has been powerful,” Ben-Aharon said in an interview with the Washington Post.
"Oh, God" is being presented this week in such universities as the University of Maryland, New York University, Dartmouth College, and Boston University.
The play, which has been described as witty and poignant, stars Maureen Keiller, as a psychotherapist and single mother of an autistic child, named Ella, who gets a visit from new, desperate patient, God, played by played by Will Lyman.
"The play is an exploration of modern spirituality," Ben-Aharon says, “this idea of God in a secular society, and what he means to each of us. It’s just a delicious script. I had no idea what a big impact it would have.”
Audiences are invited to stay and talk after the play, and for Ben-Aharon, the play’s drawing power for the young is what interests him most.
“I was in college,” he says, “and I was so annoyed that people were saying that young people didn’t go to the theater. We have to find ways to bring the shows to them.”