Twenty-six-year-old theater impresario Guy Ben-Aharon has made a stir on the Boston scene. Born in Israel, he moved to the United States at age 9, but has held fast to his international perspective. After founding Israeli Stage, a troupe dedicated to plays by Israeli authors, he was asked to spin off projects dedicated to works from Switzerland, Germany, France, Austria and Scandinavia.
Now, the feisty young company Bridge Repertory Theater of Boston is getting in on the act, bringing in Ben-Aharon to direct the U.S. premiere of “Dog Paddle (Or, Struggling Inelegantly Against Drowning)” by Reto Finger, a Swiss playwright who has won awards at home but barely ever been produced stateside.
Written in sometimes-eerie blank verse, the delightfully odd (but funny) play starts with a couple’s breakup and looks at the coping skills that come into play when one of them takes up residence in the basement, becoming a sort of 21st century Bartleby.
It seems like you’ve built a cottage industry around non-American plays.
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Guy Ben-Aharon: The thing I’m interested in most is the cross-cultural dialogue between a foreign playwright and American audiences, and finding out what we can we learn from these cultural bridges. That’s my mission in life.
The thing I find so frustrating and tragic is that theater, against the commission to be a progressive art form, in this country is so backward and so isolated. We rarely ever see anybody producing a foreign play in some kind of major way. And if it’s foreign, it’s Irish or British. I love that Bridge Rep is doing this, because they’re taking a chance.
What drew you to this play?
There was something quite wonderful about the idea of doing a show about younger characters. I think a lot of our big life decisions are made when you’re in your 20s or 30s. This is when you usually find your life partner, or your first long-term partner. This is when you choose whether you’re going to have a kid. This is when you usually choose what career you’re going to go into.
“Dog Paddle” forces you to look at, with much irony and humor, what it’s like to try to escape the banality of life and then to fail. I love this bit from the script: “I do not want/That on my thirty-fourth birthday/A fish dies.” There’s something so wonderful and awkward and poetic about that.
If you go:
Through Aug. 20
Studio Theater at Central Square Theater
450 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge