|From an Israeli boot camp to a Hollywood film set, Yafit Josephson’s amusing one-woman show relates the obstacles of type casting, stereotypes and labels as she discovers her own identity. With an unflappable spirit and a natural sense of comedic timing, Josephson chronicles her personal struggle with acceptance from one homeland to the other, finding herself an unofficial “ambassador” between two diametrically different cultures in a profession that makes her out to be a terrorist.
If serving her obligatory two years in the Israeli army didn’t prepare Josephson for the slings and arrows of Hollywood, nothing would. It seems that a woman with a military background and a prominent profile is subject to always play the “bad guy” or “wicked witch” in the narrow view of casting directors. A reality Josephson smartly rejects but ponders other solutions such as a nose job, acting classes and yoga, all the while just trying to get producers to say her name Yafit (yah-feet) correctly. Her name, taken from the Song of Solomon meaning, “[be] beautiful” may be the least of this stunningly attractive actress’ problems. Forced to play tough, commando characters Yafit’s desire to look less Jewish creates a firestorm of opposition at home from her schnitzel-baking mom. “First your nose…then it’s Jerusalem!”
What’s a good Israeli girl to do? For Josephson, a USC graduate, the solution is as plain as the nose on her face—to co-write her unique tale with Suzanne Bressler. Capitalizing on her expressive talents such as talking with her hands, awesome vocal projection and humorous impersonations that runs the gamut from Jewish grandmothers to airheaded makeup artists, the very thing that sets her apart is the very thing that makes her successful. She is living proof that to succeed in show business takes wit and ingenuity—something she has more than enough of to make it her own way…Israeli style.
But all the cultural mannerisms that give Josephson’s performance vivacity and strength are interpreted by most American acting schools as too demonstrative and affected for their taste. Attempting to placate the “less is more” attitude of western cinematic performance, Josephson turns Lady Macbeth’s famous monologue from a roar to a mere whimper in a hilariously brilliant studied contrast of opposites. Returning to Israel, her westernized style of acting is rejected outright as stiff and wooden by a local acting coach and yet again Josephson is caught in the middle of conflict and conflicting values—a reoccurring theme that marks her young life.
Sammie Wayne’s direction keeps the pace crisp with clear staging and minimal set distractions. The slideshow, however, is an unnecessary device as it stands right now. None of the pictures appear particularly interesting enough to accentuate the action onstage.
At one end of the spectrum to the other, Josephson’s show seamlessly transitions across borders, time and cultural differences with one thing ultimately remaining the same, Yafit herself. To categorize this as a pro-Israel show is to miss the point entirely. It is an exploration of the individual finding peace amid so much knee-jerk reactions, politics, opinions and stereotyping.
And this singular story keeps audiences clamoring for more with its numerous extensions and recent interest in taking this show on tour and possibly Broadway. Not bad for a girl who didn’t start speaking until she was two. With “New Eyes” Yafit has undoubtedly opened some eyes.
Runs through June 26
Sundays at 7 pm
13500 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
Free street parking on Sun.
Pre-show reception @ 6:30 pm
Homemade schnitzel by Yafit’s mom after the show (highly recommended)
--M.R. Hunter (eyespylareview[at]gmail.com)
Photos courtesy of the production
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