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‘Wedding Day at the Cro-Magnons” Review: A Bittersweet Premiere – The New York Times

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An Arabic production of Wajdi Mouawad’s 1991 work, planned to open in Lebanon, was canceled because of his perceived ties to Israel. It found a home in France.

What happens when the roots you long for keep eluding you? This question has long been central to the work of the playwright and director Wajdi Mouawad, and never more so than in a new production of his 1991 work “Wedding Day at the Cro-Magnons’.”

Currently the director of Théâtre National de la Colline, a high-profile Parisian playhouse, Mouawad was born in Lebanon. In 1978, he fled the country’s civil war with his family, at the age of 10. As a writer, he has returned to his Lebanese heritage over and over — and this year, he went back to the country to stage his first production with local actors, an Arabic-language adaptation of “Wedding Day at the Cro-Magnons’.”

But in April, just weeks before the premiere, Le Monnot playhouse in Beirut was forced to cancel all performances of the play over Mouawad’s perceived ties to Israel, which Lebanon considers an enemy state. Several Lebanese lobbying groups had called for the show to be stopped, with one, the Commission of Detainees Affairs, filing a legal complaint with the country’s military courts and demanding Mouawad’s arrest.

According to a report in the French newspaper Le Monde, Mouawad was accused of allowing the Israeli Embassy in France to pay for three plane tickets in 2017 to bring two Israeli actors and a translator to the country for his production “All Birds.” In another perceived transgression, last season Mouawad programmed a work by the Israeli artist Amos Gitai at the Théâtre National de la Colline.

Mouawad quickly left Lebanon. In a public statement, the Beirut venue blamed “unacceptable pressure and serious threats made against Le Monnot as well as some artists and technicians.”

It was an astonishing turn of events for a playwright who has always asserted his Lebanese identity, regardless of his childhood exile, and dissected it onstage. In the end, in lieu of Beirut, “Wedding Day at the Cro-Magnons’” premiered over the weekend at the Printemps des Comédiens, a theater festival in Montpellier, France, ahead of an international tour (whose dates remain to be confirmed) with the cast that was scheduled to perform in Lebanon.

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