The Road to Masada

[NoHo Arts District, CA] – A NoHo Arts theatre review of The Road to Masada: Antisemitism and Me, The Path from Hate to Hope, written and performed by Mitchell Feinstein, developed with director and producer Jessica Lynn Johnson, and performed at the Solo Stars series.

I have had the pleasure of seeing several of Mitch’s solo performances over the years. The subjects varied and beautifully written, engaging, biographical and heartfelt. His latest show is something different however and the purpose is visceral and timely.  There is nothing new there. History cycles on in a seemingly never-ending repeating prophecy of peace then war. Promise then politics. Understanding then hate.  The Middle East is in turmoil, so then is the rest of the world. 

Mitch’s story is one of self discovery. A Jewish man traveling with his wife to the holy land many years ago rediscovers the legend on Masada, where, according to Josephus who was a Roman–Jewish historian and military leader, there was a siege by Roman troops from 73 to 74 CE, at the end of the First Jewish–Roman War. The siege ended in the mass suicide of the 960 Sicarii rebels who were hiding there and Masada has become one of the most visited historical sites in Israel.

Mitch’s story is set decades ago, long before the latest troubles. But the impetus for him to choose this particular story to tell at this particular moment in all our lives is of course motivated by our present…how could it not be?

If history tells us anything it is that the victors are the ones who write it. For Mitch and so many Jewish and Israeli people this story has become one of great meaning. These people outlived a year of Roman siege and then killed themselves rather than be defeated.

Mitch’s wonderful storytelling skills give every minute of this fascinating unfolding weight and significance as well as create a compelling human allegory with his signature humor and sincerity.

We all need to feel heard. These anecdotes and memories so vividly portrayed by Mitch, with simple setting, old family photographs and sweetly formed characters from his journey long ago create a compelling narrative. He seems to yearn for understanding, for recognition, for a past not so distant to him and also for a past 2,000 years ago, when religion and borders and factions within factions littered the landscape in an ever-changing and ever-evolving world. 

Mitch has a magical turn of phrase that holds his audience. He skillfully plays back and forth with logic and passion and faith and truth and history until we are as lost in the story as he. 

It’s brave to talk about this right now. Brave and important. He uses his own past and his own journey to try to bring us to the place he holds so dear. I for one am grateful for his story, his perspective and his urgent need to be real. I wish there were more opportunities to share these stories, perhaps they can help us all understand each other a little more and even perhaps begin to create a path forward somehow. 

There truly is hope in the telling of this poignant, funny and consequential play.