“The Ally” is a play where everyone’s right — but everyone’s wrong

528
Madeline Weinstein, Michael Khalid Karadsheh, and Elijah Jones holding papers are on stage talking
Madeline Weinstein, Michael Khalid Karadsheh, and Elijah Jones in the world premiere production of The Ally, written by Itamar Moses and directed by Lila Neugebauer. (Photo by Joan Marcus)
Josh Radnor, Madeline Weinstein, Cherise Boothe, and Michael Khalid Karadsheh are on stage talking to each other
Josh Radnor, Madeline Weinstein, Cherise Boothe, and Michael Khalid Karadsheh in the world premiere production of The Ally, written by Itamar Moses and directed by Lila Neugebauer. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Off-Broadway’s institutional powerhouse, the Public Theater, presents Itamar Moses’ latest play, The Ally. It is a powerful, disturbing work that threatens to explode the idea of intersectionality when it comes to social justice. It exposes the myth of progressive unity by showing it to be as conformist and oppressive on the left as fascism is on the right, demanding — expecting — a monolithic stance on all its favored causes, and negating anyone who deviates from it.

The protagonist is Asaf (Josh Radnor), a university playwriting professor married to a newly-hired campus administrator, Gwen (Joy Osmanski). One of his students, Baron (Elijah Jones), asks him to sign a letter seeking justice for his brother, murdered by the police. The “letter” is a 20-page manifesto of social justice demands specifically condemning two countries — America and Israel — and was put together by social activist Nakia (Cherise Boothe), a long-ago ex-lover of Asaf.

While Asaf questions some of the points made he signs on, reasoning that his name will be one of hundreds and so go unnoticed. Asaf is then asked by two university students, Rachel (Madeline Weinstein) and Farid (Michael Khalid Karadsheh), to be the faculty sponsor of their new Jewish/Palestinian student group, which seeks to bring a controversial speaker to campus despite the opposition of the current campus Jewish student group. Asaf agrees, but then is confronted by Reuven (Ben Rosenfield), a member of the Jewish student group who maintains that the speaker is anti-Israel and should not be allowed to speak on campus.

The characters each represent a different perspective from the others. Gwen is of Korean descent — making her, as she puts it, acceptable to everyone and trusted by no one; Nakia and Baron are Black; Rachel and Reuven come from different perspectives of the Jewish experience; Farid is a Palestinian from Gaza who was sent by his family to college in America.

As for Asaf, his parents are Americans who emigrated to Israel, so he holds dual American-Israeli citizenship. He is culturally Jewish but religiously atheistic. And while all the other characters make their arguments to him, practically nobody gives him the whole truth — and nobody is interested in his reservations.

The Ally is an incendiary, incandescent play, expertly written and passionately acted by the cast under the direction of Lila Newgebauer. It mirrors many of the flaws on both sides of the political divide that have contributed to so many of the chasms between groups today. And it does so primarily by not taking anyone’s side; or, rather, not allowing anyone’s side to appear to be wholly right or wholly wrong.

The Public Theater has not, during its career, shied away from presenting works examining social issues of the day. It continues this tradition with The Ally, an intelligent, thought-provoking play. I strongly encourage you to see The Ally during its limited engagement.

The Ally is presented at the Anspacher Stage of the Public Theater on Lafayette Street in New York through April 7, 2024.  For more information, go to publictheater.org; for tickets, call 212-967-7555.

Allen Neuner
Allen Neuner is the theater reviewer at Out in Jersey magazine. Jersey born and raised, Allen went to his first Broadway play in 1957 and has been deliriously in love with live theater ever since. Allen has been accepted into the American Theatre Critics Association, a professional organization of theatre journalists. He has been partnered to music reviewer Bill Realman Stella, with whom he is also deliriously in love, for over 20 years. They live in an over-cluttered house in Somerville.