May 25, 2019
Two Room Apartment by Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor, based on a similarly-titled piece from 1987 by Liat Dror and Nir Ben Gal, opens with the couple using white tape to define the stage, the audience sat all around. They separate the space in two, inhabiting both parts, at first apart and individually, before crossing the dividing line.
It’s reminiscent of real life as the work begins by describing one life that then merges with the unknown as it enters a relationship. The divided spaces are walked around, or better marched around, the couple dancing repetitive phrases at the four corners of the rectangles. They wear T-shirts, jeans, shoes and jumpers that they keep putting on and taking off. It’s daily routine; recurrent behaviour. When they come together in unison, one perceives a synergy, a clear association between the captivating pair.
The two men appear strong, resolute and self-confident, recalling fully-trained soldiers of the Israeli military. But there is also austerity and vulnerability. Here, in their two-room apartment, there are human fragilities amid the masculine strength. They look at times susceptible, at times tough as they deal with their intolerances, their insecurities, and as they confront the issues of long-term commitment.
They get entangled in their pasts, presents and possible futures. There is a strong sense of belonging, of tenderness even. As they talk, tenderly smile at each other and go over some complicated steps that did not go as wanted the first time, it is like watching a private rehearsal.
Active and passive behaviour is reflected in their chasing and running away from each other. Accompanying dominant and subservient roles are vividly and beautifully performed. There is a constant struggle, something ‘real’ that makes the performance particularly enthralling. Questions start to occur. How do borders get set up in relationships? How do you find balance when there’s a constant inbalance? How to accept differences of being, and overcome disappointments and mistakes?
In Two Room Apartment, Sheinfeld and Laor masterfully recreate the complexities of bonding within their particular ‘performed relationship’. They do so with great expression and vivid authenticity. As they generate a lasting animal magnetism towards each other, they do sometimes look exposed and defenceless; vulnerability goes hand-in-hand with tenacity. They hold fully the attention of the audience, who are like curious and utterly fascinated voyeurs as they watch their intimate entanglements, their very human games.