Enough is enough
Iris Bahr, the multi-talented star of US comedies Curb Your Enthusiasm and King of Queens makes a dramatic change of direction with her politically potent one-woman play, Dai
This article is from 2007.
As Iris Bahr tells of the time she was deemed ‘too pretty’ to play the ugly neighbour in US sitcom, King of Queens, it’s hard to believe that just last month her work was being showcased for a special audience at the United Nations in New York due to its political gravitas.
A million miles from her on-screen personas in some of America’s top soaps, Bahr’s one-woman show, Dai, set in a Tel Aviv café, just minutes before a suicide bomber enters, holds a mirror up to the realities and complexities of war. Bahr plays each of the 10 characters, unknowingly and unwittingly awaiting their fate.
Once Bahr had the idea for the piece, bringing it to an audience was a necessity. ‘I suddenly felt there was so much to say and explore,’ explains Bahr. ‘So much surrounding the politics, the religions or the idea of life and death is open to question.’
Bahr certainly has the credentials to tell such a potentially controversial story. Born and raised in the Bronx, she moved to Israel at the age of 13. Bahr would later complete two years of military service for the country. ‘What was interesting about that early time in Israel was that I’d lived something else so I was looking at it with a very interesting mindset, even as a teenager,’ says Bahr.
Her national service, while not directly in the line of fire, afforded ample reflection for a young, impressionable mind. ‘My job was essentially to spy. I would spend ten hours a night listening into other people’s conversations.’
In the course of Dai (which means ‘enough’), the audience meets Svetlana, a Russian prostitute; Trev Brodman, a Christian Dominionist; Shuli, an extremist West Bank settler; Nijma Aziz, a Palestinian intellectual; Uzi, a peer of Ariel Sharon; and Jessica Mendoza, a Latina actress chasing the latest Middle East Conflict blockbuster.
‘There are parts of me and my conflicted views in there but it’s not a polemic, far from it,’ says Bahr. ‘It’s about having a discussion and using the theatre as a stage to apply honesty and sometimes humour to something we are often too afraid to. These are very different people going about what they consider to be their everyday lives.’
Following her teenage experiences of Israel, Bahr journeyed through Asia, a trip she chronicled in her non-fiction book, Dork Whore. A stint at Brown University followed, while a later move to LA would transform her into an actor, comedian, writer, and director, with roles in hit shows such as Curb Your Enthusiasm, Commander in Chief, King of Queens, Friends and Star Trek: Voyager.
Bahr’s success has seldom prevented her from going back to her roots. Her directorial debut, The Unchosen Ones, improvised from scratch on the streets of Israel and starring Iris as all five characters, featured at the Cannes Short Film Corner. Her stand-up continues to be sprinkled with anecdotes from her past.
‘There has seldom been so much open discussion about politics, war and race as right now. People want to understand what’s going on beyond what they see on the news or read in the papers.’ As for her own performance, she says, ‘It’s not about taking sides it’s about the universality of the situation and how it affects people no matter what their origins.’
Dai (Enough), Pleasance Courtyard, 0131 556 6550, 1–27 Aug (not 14), 4pm, £8–£9 (£6.50–£7.50). Previews 1–4 Aug, £5.