BY MICHAEL SOMMERS
OFF BROADWAY REVIEW
Lawrence Wright is a staff writer for The New Yorker who won a Pulitzer for his history "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11." In 2006, Wright appeared in his solo stage work, "My Trip to Al-Qaeda," which was then made as a documentary film that premiered just last month.
Wright now considers the horrifying stalemate currently between Israel and Palestine in the Gaza Strip in his latest solo piece, "The Human Scale," which opened Thursday at 3LD Art and Technology Center.
To detail the region's bloody mess of conflicting ideologies, Wright organizes his story around Gilad Shalit, a young Israeli soldier who was kidnapped by Hamas in 2006 and remains to this day a captive. His ransom is the return of 1,400 Palestinian prisoners.
In the years since Shalit's capture, thousands more have died in Gaza — along with far fewer losses in Israel — during ceaseless strife and several waves of military action.
"How do you measure the value of a life?" wonders Wright, who attempts to provide a balanced view of the conflict. He discusses the historic, religious, political, economic and even the genetic aspects of the struggle. He interviews various leaders, visits devastated places and shows many ugly images of human butchery and ruination. The future, concludes Wright after 80 painful minutes, appears grim.
Modestly staged by Oskar Eustis, artistic director for the Public Theater, the presentation is more of an illustrated lecture than a theater piece. A rumpled professorial type, the soft-spoken Wright ambles a bit uneasily around a small platform furnished with a table, chair and Middle Eastern rug.
Behind him, half a dozen overlapping screens are employed to display a mix of still and video images documenting Wright's text. Some of the visuals are terribly graphic — the slaughter caused by a suicide bomber in a Jerusalem restaurant, a 12-year-old girl screaming in anguish at the sight of her slain father amid other dying family members on a Gaza beach — and contrast sharply against Wright's temperate if pensive delivery of his observations.
"The Human Scale" continues through Oct. 31 at 3LD Art and Technology Center, 80 Greenwich St., New York. Call (212) 967-7555 or visit www.publictheater.org.