Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
The Band's Visit
The Band's Visit was always a beautifully low-key musical about isolation and the necessity of making personal connections, so it seems especially meaningful as audiences return to theaters as the danger of COVID-19 lessens. The touring production, masterfully directed by David Cromer, has returned to the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theatre in Washington, where it previously played in 2019.
The book by Itamar Moses, based on Eran Kolirin's screenplay for a 2007 Israeli movie, concerns the members of an Egyptian police orchestra who, on their way to a performance at an Arab cultural center in Israel, accidentally find themselves in the wrong town. The dusty, isolated desert town has no hotels and the next bus won't come until the following day, so café owner Dina (Janet Dacal) and her employees take the musicians in overnight.
David Yazbek wrote both the music and lyrics, which are steeped in the harmonies and rhythms of Israeli and Arabic cultures, different but related, propulsive and elegiac by turns. So it is with the growing rapport between the residents and the visitors: the groups speak among themselves in their own languages but communicate with each other in English.
Sasson Gabay, who played band conductor Tewfiq in the original movie and succeeded Tony Shalhoub on Broadway, continues to find new depths in the role. The character is taciturn, uncomfortable about sharing his experiences and sorrows, and Gabay uses his face, posture and voice to convey both unspoken sadness and great empathy.
Dacal blossoms throughout the performance, beginning as a jaded woman with little hope and discovering fresh purpose through her interactions with Tewfiq and the other musicians. The script provides standout moments for many cast members, specifically Ali Louis Bourzgui as a soulful trumpeter who aspires to jazz stardom and helps one of the locals (Coby Getzug) to come out of his shell, David Studwell as an older man to whom music has always been part of love, and Joshua Grosso in a largely silent role as a man with undying hope that the woman he loves will call him soon.
The compact scenic design by Scott Pask uses a turntable and a single structure to create all the settings, lit creatively and economically by Tyler Micoleau. Sarah Laux's costume designs depict the distance (at first) between the musicians in their powder blue uniforms and the locals, dressed casually for the desert heat.
The Band's Visit runs through July 17, 2022, in the Eisenhower Theater, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F St. NW, Washington DC. For tickets and information, please call 800-444-1324 or 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org. For more information on the tour, please visit thebandsvisitmusical.com/tour/.
Directed by David Cromer