FRINGE: The Tenant Haimovitz will mess with your mind

The Tenant Haimovitz Fringe GigCity EdmontonThe first 15 minutes or so of The Tenant Haimovitz (Venue 1) makes about as much sense as Middle Eastern politics does to a New World man.

A writer named Daniel – “it’s pronounced Dan-ee-yell” – rents an apartment only to discover he already has roommates which may or may not be figments of his imagination. They all seem to be collaborating to pull him down the rabbit hole of a strange alternate reality. Or maybe it is actually going on. Or are they doing it for another reason, like to confound him from moving forward in his life? Is there some secret absurdist purpose behind their strange behavior or are they messing with him just because? Huh? What is going here?

This seven actor troupe from Tel Aviv, Israel, is highly energetic, verging on manic, which served the play very well, overwhelming and confusing the main character Daniel – not to mention a few audience members. His possibly imaginary housemates include mindless bureaucrats, cruel dictators, verbally abusive parents, jilted ex-girlfriends, all seeming to confound him in one way or another. It’s not until a mock rebirthing – or maybe it actually happened? – and the expulsion of a dybbuk (a malevolent spirit) from Daniel’s body that the main character gets closer to resolving his quest to close “the bandaged door to my bloodied past.”

There is a tremendous amount to think about here. Playwright Ariel Bronz has a sharp mind, and if there is any criticism of this play it’s that he expects the viewer to keep up with him – and there are many who will not. It winds up as an absurdist comedy-drama seemingly written by the ghost of Franz Kafka had he attempted to ideologically fuse themes from Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil”, Gogol’s “Dead Souls”, and Fellini’s entire filmography. While hyped up on amphetamines. Fast paced and full of rapidly changing characters, scenes and states of reality, the play is a purposeful assault on the senses.

This does not deny the artistry, sophistication, symbolism and keen intellect behind the work, however. These are top flight performers you probably won’t otherwise see at the Fringe. But for this reason, they remain somewhat inaccessible to the masses. If you are able to relax, hold attention and let it unfold, you may find that the Tenant Haimovitz is a very rewarding theatrical experience that unfolds into a sensible, coherent, suitable, coherent conclusion. That you didn’t see coming.