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Jewish Journal

Comedy Relief

by Mike Levy

June 28, 2001 | 8:00 pm

When Heidi Joyce thinks Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she thinks comedy. It's worked for her before in an effort to combat domestic abuse, and it works again in her new play, "Friends and Enemies."

Best known for her "Stand Up Against Domestic Violence" comedy fundraisers, Joyce opens her first full-length play this week, which runs through July 29 at North Hollywood's Bitter Truth Playhouse.

Joyce wrote and directed "Friends and Enemies," the story of two 13-year-olds rooming together on a cultural exchange program. Both David, a Jewish boy from Cleveland, and Mahmoud, a Palestinian from Jordan, bring with them the prejudices of their parents. "Are you a terrorist?" asks David. "A Jew is a soldier with a gun," says Mahmoud.

The teens find they have more in common than inherited biases.

By the end of the first scene, David and Mahmoud are playing a video game together, crossing a line they've taped across their room. The play humorously tracks the boys over the next four summers. As the conflict in the Middle East grows, so, too, does their friendship as they bond over girls, family life and teenage rebellion.

Joyce wrote "Friends and Enemies" in 1992, and then set it aside as the peace process made it seem irrelevant. She brought it to the attention of colleagues as they worked on "Stand Up Against Domestic Violence" in May, as tensions in Israel escalated. Both projects are "connected to the cycle of violence," Joyce says, "a violence that gets into you before you really have a chance to know what you think."

Heidi Joyce feels that humor most effectively highlights the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as it did in her domestic-abuse project. "There's so much pathos and tragedy and nowhere to go with that. Humor is where hope lies."

"Friends and Enemies" at the Bitter Truth Playhouse, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. Saturdays, 8 p.m. until July 29. For more information, call (818) 755-7900.

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