Public Theatre Presents THE ALLY Review — Not-So-Good People On All Sides

Public Theater THE ALLY
Josh Radnor as the title character Asaf, The Ally

A chair, a lamp, and not much else…

Itamar Moses’ ever-so-timely script fills the room with battling ideologies instead. Some characters carry the banner of intersectionality—where racism and the Palestinians’ struggle for survival combine. Other characters are Jews doing battle to define and claim Never Again to support their ideological persuasions.  Ancient rumblings of anti-semitic tropes move in and out of audible range— perhaps more loudly for some than others. Add in Freedom of Speech, academic freedom of thought, and What-Aboutism.   Finally, tune in that you are part of an audience seemingly eager to rush In with snaps, claps and other variants of huzzah. 

In this  over-crowded room there really isn’t much room to move — and actually, nobody does.  Moses’ script, like Asaf, the lead character doesn’t evolve or devolve.  Nobody does. From beginning to end Asaf is a paralyzed man, doing somersaults to only end up in a roil-in-place.

Public Theater THE ALLY
Elijah Jones as Baron
Public Theater THE ALLY
Cherise Booth as Nakia, Araf's one-time girlfriend and the lawyer who authored the anti-police brutality petition
Public Theater THE ALLY
Michael Khalid Karadsheh as Farid, a Palestinian student and Madeine Weinstein as Gwen, a progressive student and descendant of Holocaust survivors
Public Theater THE ALLY
Ben Rosenfield as a zionist zeolot grad student, Reuven

We meet writer and part-time professor Asaf in an unnamed college in an unnamed college town.   Born and raised in the Bay Area, an atheist and self-defined progressive, he is the son of Israeli emigrés, married to an Asian woman, and coincidentally now living in the same town of his African-American lawyer Ex.  One of his favorite students, Baron, approaches him to become the titular ally, signing a petition to protest the  police murder of his innocent cousin who did nothing more than be in the wrong place at the wrong time while being Black.  There is a video showing the murder of Baron’s cousin— which Asaf never watches. He suggests he doesn’t need to watch the video to get it and to sign the petition. 

The proverbial fly in the ointment is that the petition Asaf is asked to sign, coincidentally written by his Ex, includes a reference to the need for solidarity with the Palestinian cause using terms of apartheid  and genocide. Swallowing his disquiet with this wording he signs anyway, which in turn leads to him becoming the sponsor of a new progressive Jewish organization that wants to bring a controversial speaker to their school.  

Asaf, the ally, never watches the video of Baron’s cousin’s murder.  It seems to become a metaphor for just how much he is willing or not to absorb Baron’s reality from the safety of his privileged remove.  With Moses’ pen at work though, Asaf is not the bad guy.  Just about everyone in the room has a cringeworthy blind spot, with the exception of Baron, a quiet hero in the background who finds room to take ownership of both his tribal instincts AND his emerging sense of complexities he has only barely tuned in.

Public Theatre Timing of the Production Astounds

This reviewer has reason to ponder if Moses’ script would engage as much if we were not seeing the play at the very moment when the world is watching the systematic starving and destruction of Gaza in real-time.  Productions do not get more timely than this.  You don’t walk into this play without a tribal identity— even if you think you don’t have one.

If you are drawn to the ideological wordy tomes of a George Bernhard Shaw type script The Ally will likely sate your appetite for such.  If you like your theater more action packed with a clear dramatic trajectory The Ally will likely disappoint.  

Like the characters in this script, we’re in an ideological boxing ring with all contestants soaked in blood and quaking in our tribal corners.  If you don't think that applies to you...


Public Theater THE ALLY
Farid recounts the history of the continuing Catastrophe
Public Theater THE ALLY
Joy Osmanski as Asaf's wife Gwen


Josh Radnor (Asaf), Cherise Boothe (Nakia/Rabbi), Elijah Jones (Baron), Michael Khalid Karadsheh (Farid), Joy Osmanski (Gwen), Ben Rosenfield (Reuven), and Madeline Weinstein (Rachel).


THE ALLY By Itamar Moses

Directed by Lila Neugebauer

Scenic design by Lael Jellinek, costume design by Sarita Fellows, lighting design by Reza Behjat, sound design by Bray Poor, and prop management by Claire M. Kavanah. Roxana Khan serves as the production stage manager.


Now extended through April 7, 2024



The Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street
New York, New York



For tickets and more information visit The Public Theater website.



Photos: Joan Marcus, courtesy of The Public Theater

Amy Munice

About the Author: Amy Munice

Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.

Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.


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