BWW Review: THE BAND'S VISIT to Pittsburgh Proves Music's Power
As a universal language, music can cross cultures, borders, and time. The Band's Visit does just that, capturing the power of music and sharing its unyielding effects on love with a Pittsburgh audience.
The 2018 Tony Award-winning musical is based on the 2007 Israeli film of the same name and stars Sasson Gabai, reprising his role, Tewfiq, from the film. Like the film, the plot of the one-act musical is largely the same.
An Egyptian band, the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra, easily identifiable by their uniformed baby blue suits, are invited to Israel to perform at Petah Tikvah's Arab Cultural Center. The group arrives at the Israeli airport bus station, but due to their Egyptian accents, a group member mispronounces their destination, causing the group to board a bus destined for Bet Hatikva.
After arriving in the desert town, the bandleader, Tewfiq, asks for direction from a local coffee shop. Through a comedic exchange, Dina (Janet Decal), the curt owner of the shop, informs Tewfiq that Bet Hatikva does not have an Arab Cultural Center and that they boarded the wrong bus.
The town of Bet Hatikva is boring, mundane, and routine, and this isn't this critic's opinion. The townspeople profess this in "Waiting" and "Welcome to Nowhere." Still, as we come to find out, the town has a lot to offer and many stories to tell.
After letting her guard down, Dina is hospitable to the group, offering the band a place to stay for the night, until the next bus comes in the morning to take them away. Different band members split between different residents of Bet Hatikva, allowing audiences an unabridged glimpse into their lives and the love that comes out from the music.
The Band's Visit touts its comedy in the form of dialog. The common language of the Israelis and Egyptians in the show is English, but their shared - not perfect - knowledge of the language, their syntax, and their speech patterns provide comedic interactions during the 90-minute show.
The lighting adds to the comedy, as well. (Yes, I said lighting!) Resembling a sitcom, the transitions between scenes typically cut abruptly to black. This would typically occur right after a joke or a dramatic pause, creating a zinger effect that moved the plot along with laughter and applause.
Largely, the musical is deliberate. It could be mistaken as slow, but the musical progresses in near real-time; the majority of the show occurs in just one night. Thinking of all the stories and emotions that come from just one night in town, the musical becomes remarkable.
Adding to its remarkability is the context of the show in today's society. The show avoids cultural stereotyping by focuses on cultures that are not typically front and center in a musical. It tells the story of a town welcoming in a group of strangers from another land. It tells the tale of music uniting people and bringing out memories of the past.
The Band's Visit to Pittsburgh allows us to emulate a hospitable welcome to strangers for the night. It not only unites us in the moment, but it also creates memories for the future.
To see or not to see score: 6/9; Moderately Recommended Show
Photo by: Matthew Murphy