Last updated December 14th 2015
I was young, romantic, and alternatively inclined when I first saw Harold and Maude in its film version. By the time I saw it, it was already a cult favorite among the artsy, sensitive crowd, while I, was younger than its young protagonist Harold. The story and its characters entranced me, and the final moments of the film found me sobbing inconsolably. Now, with the passage of time, I am not quite Maude’s contemporary, but more like midway between the two, no longer young but still rather romantic and alternative in my inclinations. Seeing the stage version at the Beer Sheva Theatre, directed by Rafi Niv, I found much that made me smile and even laugh, as I followed the unique relationship that develops between these two characters, each a kind of eccentric outsider. I suppose that says something about the passage of time, once you last long enough and get through enough stuff in your life, your perspective changes, becomes broader, and it all seems funnier.
Harold Chasen (Tom Avni) is the quintessential ‘poor little rich boy’ – no amount of wealth can compensate for the lack of a warm, loving, home. Life with his mother, the impeccably stylish – bravo to Svetlana Breger! – Mrs. Helen Chasen (Shiri Golan) is all about appearances, no wonder it all seems empty and meaningless to her son. Harold’s creativity and emotion is subverted into visual illusions of suicide, a perverse yet at the same time entirely appropriate response to his upbringing. Tom Avni portrays the 19 year old Harold with a very convincing sweet diffidence. At the play’s start he is like a flower that has been grown in a dark room, pale and weak, bereft of sunshine. Under the influence of Maude, he slowly begins to unfurl and stretch out his leaves, and allow himself to bloom.
Since life does not offer much beyond lavish furniture and conventions – such as marriage – devoid of meaning, Harold finds his solace in thoughts of death: staging mock suicides and attending the funerals of strangers, and that is how he meets Maude. Liat Goren infuses the 79 year old Maude with warmth and an optimism that cheerfully breaks through all barriers – social conventions, age differences and even the law. She loves life and lives it with pleasure, embracing each moment and taking it all in, appreciating every individual detail. She is literally irresistible.
Shiri Golan is the monster mom you love to hate, in her elegant black and white haute couture, changing outfits in every scene and utterly oblivious to Harold as a person, relating to him as one more fixture – and a rather faulty one at that, in her otherwise picture perfect life. Inbar Dannon does a brilliant comic turn in her outrageously funny portrayals of the parade of potential mates for Harold – I look forward to seeing more of this young actor!
We all could use a ‘Maude’ in our lives to remind us of all the reasons to sing and dance, luckily we can find one at the Beer Sheva Theatre.
Harold and Maude
A play by Colin Higgins; Translated by Ido Ricklin; Directed by Rafi Niv; Set Design: Eran Atzmon; Costume Design: Svetlana Breger; Lighting: Ziv Voloshin; Music: Amir Lekner; Choreography: Iris Lana; Video: Yoav Cohen & Adam Lewensohn; Cast: Liat Goren (Maude), Tom Avni (Harold Chasen), Shiri Golan (Mrs. Helen Chasen), Ron Bitterman (Dr. Matthews, Inspector Bernard), Yuval Karmi (Father Finnegan), Inbar Dannon (Sylvie Gazel, Nancy Mersch, Sunshine Dore), Dani Shapira (Gardner, Sergent Doppel), Zohar Meidan (Marie, maid).