Dreaming a brothel far, far away

by anita gates
The New york times
December 5, 2006

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The characters in “The Whore From Ohio,” a vulgar but stylish black comedy by the Israeli playwright Hanoch Levin, have names (Hoibitter, Hoimar and Brontsatski), but it may be simpler to refer to them as the father, the son and the prostitute.

On his 70th birthday the father (Victor Attar), a beggar, decides to buy himself a gift: a session with a prostitute (Zishan Ugurlu). He tries negotiating down the 100-shekel price, and, when the time comes, cannot manage an erection. She is not sympathetic (“Popsie, you’ve got a corpse between your legs”).

The man’s homeless grown son (Udi Razzin) happens along, and although the prostitute is offered to him (she’s already paid for), he is much more interested in how his father is spending his money.

Both men dream about the good life. The son enjoys pretending that his father is really a rich industrialist. The father likes to imagine his son making it big in Hollywood and marrying the American movie star Virginia Mayo. (The play’s time period is never specified.)

The title comes from the father’s longtime fantasy: a huge, elegant brothel in faraway Ohio, where prostitutes spend their days riding thoroughbreds, and each has a garden, a yacht, a private plane, a retinue of servants and two gynecologists on call 24 hours a day.

Not that he would fit in there. The characters’ costumes, by Robert Eggers, look all too realistically filthy. Mr. Attar and his wife, Geula Jeffet Attar, are the co-directors, responsible for the imaginative staging.

Mr. Levin’s “Job’s Passion,” which just closed at Theater for the New City, was biblical and sprawling. “The Whore From Ohio” is semi-contemporary and concise. What the two works by Mr. Levin, who died in 1999, share is an appetite for unpleasant truths. Sometimes the results are coarse; sometimes they are emotionally revealing.

“Why are you so small and weak?” the son asks his elderly father. “Why aren’t you God?”

The father asks the no longer tiny son, “Where is my trusting baby with golden curls?”

“I have no baby!” the father cries.

The son replies, “I have no father.”

The inevitable dual tragedy of adulthood is identified.