Orthodox Jews and Filipino drag queens make an unlikely pairing but Philip Himberg’s play with music (based on Tomer Heymann’s 2006 documentary film) poignantly proves that, with a bit of tolerance and understanding, the most improbable clashes of race, faith, culture and sexual orientation can result in something truly life-affirming.
Leaving behind a country where families traditionally look after their own old and infirm, the five Filipino men who comprise the singing Paper Dolls live in Tel Aviv, constant companions and carers for sick, elderly Jewish men who can no longer take care of themselves – and whose own relatives are unwilling or unable to take on the job.
But in their spare time, they toss their long hair, put on elaborate dresses they’ve fashioned out of newspaper and strut their stuff in the hope of finding fame with a bit of help from their number one fan, gay Israeli Yossi.
Like their drag act, Himberg’s play isn’t exactly polished – it touches too briefly on too many issues.
But there’s an infectious quality to Indhu Rubasingham’s immensely likeable production which makes one forgive the flaws and hope that Chiqui (Ron Domingo), his dissatisfied younger brother Jiorgio (Jon Norman Schneider), tubby Zhan (Angelo Paragoso) who needs two people to shoehorn him into his slinky costume and recently arrived Cheska won’t fall foul of exploitative nightclub managers, immigration laws or acts of terrorism.
And in the touching relationship between Francis Jue’s Catholic Salvador (known as Sally) and Harry Dickman’s cancer-ridden Chaim, there’s a tenderness and affection built up over the years which more than borders on the familial.
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Photo: Tristram Kenton