Recasting The Daniel Pearl Story
01/28/2014
Special To The Jewish Week
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Terrorists come in all shapes and sizes — and all levels of wealth and education. In Dick Brukenfeld’s new play, “Blind Angels,” a Jewish journalist is taken captive in New York by a group of his former Yale classmates, who are planning a 9/11-style attack. As many liberals have done, the play questions our nation’s use of force, suggesting that American drone attacks have led to reprisals by terrorists. It premieres next week at the Theater for the New City in the East Village.

Directed by Melissa Attebery, “Blind Angels” is the story of a Jewish journalist, Aaron Samzer (Scott Raker), whose Muslim extremist friends, including his ex-fiancé (Qurrat Ann Kadwani), reveal themselves as terrorists; they tell him about the imminent bombing and ask him to write an article about it that is sympathetic to their side. When Aaron refuses, he is taken prisoner until the act can be carried out. As the clock is ticking, Aaron tries to convince his captors to desist from the path of violence.

A former theater critic for the Village Voice, Brukenfeld has written a half dozen other plays, including the 1973 Off-Broadway comedy, “The Big Broadcast on East 53rd.” In an interview, he told The Jewish Week that he was fascinated by the story of former Wall Street Journal Daniel Pearl, who was savagely murdered by Pakistani terrorists. He decided to write a play that would “come out better” than Pearl’s tragic tale.

The playwright elected to complicate the situation by having a hero who, rather than being “courageous and enterprising” like Pearl, is “a work in progress” — an insecure, commitment-phobic, klutzy Jewish man. And the terrorists are successful, sophisticated Muslim Americans who challenge the stereotype of radicals who abhor the American way of life.  “I wanted to take a fresh look at terrorism,” Brukenfeld said. “It takes two to tango. We have an extraordinary vulnerability to terrorism because of our own attacks in Arab countries.”

The title of the play, Brukenfeld added, refers to the idea that people may believe that they are doing good, but often find themselves stymied by their own lack of understanding. Then again, he said, he is also trying to get audience members to take off their own blinders, to “open their eyes to the fact that we have our own role in the equation” of violence begetting violence.

“Blind Angels” opens Thursday, Feb. 6 at the Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave., and runs through Sunday, March 2. Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. For tickets, $15, call the box office at (212) 254-1109 or visit www.theaterforthenewcity.net.

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