Hard Love packs a powerful emotional punch

Posted on June 8, 2009

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Review of Israeli playwright Motti Lerner’s “Hard Love” whose final two performances are this week.

If this review seems spare it’s because I hope you’ll see Motti Lerner’s play Hard Love (either Wednesday afternoon or Thursday evening) and want to keep spoilers to a minimum. Hanna and Zvi divorced 20 years ago when Zvi became an atheist and left their Ultra-Orthodox community. When the children they each had in their second marriages start dating they meet again which leads them to discuss their marriage and its ending.

The themes Hard Love examines include both the religious-secular divide in Israeli society and the compromises that are necessary in any marriage. The latter theme in particular gives the play its emotional depth and power; Zvi is too emotionally wounded to meet Hanna half-way. Like Shalom Auslander in Foreskin’s Lament Zvi is haunted by God; his professed atheism seems like an attempt to flee a God he blames but can never elude. I am personally acquainted with several couples who agree to disagree on matters of religion, but none of them are Ultra-Orthodox, and all of them are psychologically whole and emotionally secure enough to accommodate a partner’s differences.

Hanna and Zvi are the only characters that actually appear on stage, and Mira Hirsch andDavid Marshall Silverman give very strong performances. The play’s two acts (between which there is a ten minute intermission) mirror each other in reverse. Some of the plot devises seem implausible, but I urge you to suspend disbelief and not let these details divert you from the play’s emotional truths. Hard Love‘s two final performances will be Wednesday June 10th at 3:00 PM and Thursday June 11th at 7:30 PM at Theater Three, 311 West 43rd Street, third floor, in Manhattan.

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