Heads turn as Meital Dohan strolls into the café at the Viceroy Santa Monica hotel, wearing a miniskirt and high heels.
The 32-year-old actress — a graduate of the prestigious Nissan Nativ Acting Studio and two-time Israeli Oscar nominee — is known for roles that exude sexuality: She played Yael Hoffman, the rabbinical scholar with a dominatrix’s streak on Showtime’s “Weeds”; a manipulative vixen masquerading as a dumb blonde in “Ugliest Esti,” the Israeli “Ugly Betty”; and she has graced the cover of most Israeli magazines, including her lingerie-clad turn for the Israeli Maxim.
Now she is one of two protagonists in Anthony Neilson’s “Stitching,” a play about a husband and wife who engage in dangerous sexual games in an attempt to reconnect after a tragedy, running through April 5 at the Lillian Theater in Hollywood.
The blistering one-act — which has been a hit with audiences despite mixed reviews — is part of the “in-yer-face” branch of the British theater proffered by Neilson and playwrights such as Sarah Kane.
“Sex is a very strong motivator in life,” Dohan said of her affinity for such material. “My taste in theater and art often relates to exploring these motivations openly, in all their different forms.”
If her “Weeds” character was “sexy and a bit twisted,” she explained, “the role of Abby in ‘Stitching’ comes from a much darker place. I like to see the characters as two normal people who have a strong need for love but reality makes that impossible, and they lose their minds.”
“Meital is a fiercely passionate, intuitive actress, which allows for communication onstage that heightens the energy and makes the audience feel as if they are intruding on this couple,” says her co-star, John Ventimiglia (“The Soparanos”).
Dohan has performed on all the major stages in Israel and began working regularly in the United States after breaking up with her fiancé in 2003: “A relationship, what is that?” she quipped, ruefully. She starred in a Manhattan production of Federico Garcia Lorca’s “Blood Wedding” and co-wrote and performed a semi-autobiographical show, “Bath Party,” which takes place primarily in a tub. She also originated the role of Abby in the New York production of “Stitching,” which had its controversial world premiere at the 2002 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The play was subsequently banned in Malta for obscene content. Dohan once bloodied her lip onstage and regularly bruises herself during the show.
The actress said the physicality mirrors the volatile state of the characters: “Abby’s pain is so visceral, as an actress I feel it in my body,” she said, adding that she was initially reluctant to reprise the character in the Los Angeles production. “I would dream about the play and wake up from it. It’s like a bad addiction; it’s painful, but I love it so much I couldn’t quite let it go. It’s crazy, how strong the material is,” she added, “even the second time around.”
For tickets and information, call (323) 960-7782.