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The streets of modern day Tel Aviv and historic Jerusalem come alive in Mt View. Berkeley's Jewish Circle Theatre and John Gertz Productions present the world-premiere of LOVE SICK, a romantic new musical play inspired by the ancient Hebrew text, "The Song of Songs." LOVE SICK is now on stage at the SecondStage Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts through March 19. Directed by Christopher Renshaw, he says “As you experience this new work, you’ll be welcomed into our story by a family of people from different cultures. The story they share could be told in a refugee camp, in the streets of Tel Aviv or in a mind of a woman obsessed with love.”

Writer and actor of LOVE SICK, Ofra Daniel, says "The ancient collection of love poetry preserved in the biblical Song of Songs has long been an inspiration for artists and storytellers of all faiths and cultures-it is timeless, - One of the poems describes a woman wandering the streets of Jerusalem, looking desperately for her lover. She cries out to passersby 'If you find this man, tell him I am sick with love'. Of all biblical texts, The Song of Songs expresses perhaps the strongest female voice. But the poems always seemed somehow too perfect for me. I wanted to find the human drama behind them."

The 80 minute musical features Bay Area's writer and foolproof actor Ofra Daniel. She writes and is the lead in this original story of one woman's journey through a relentless and erotic love affair-and her leering descent into madness. The erotic poetry of the biblical “Song of Songs” comes to life with a cast of four women from Jerusalem, and a live band that plays on stage with the actors. The lover played by the grand Ali Paris also plays the exotic Qanun. Daniel take us through the story as Tirzah, who begins as a lost bag lady known only as “the crazy poet of love.” Tirzah takes us back in time to her childhood and to her married days as she tried to deal with a no end marriage. Some mysterious letters are discovered and this opens the door to her slow madness taking over as she wonders who this unseen lover is.

The accomplished Daniel and director Renshaw make a terrific team that perfectly scores love sick madness and exposes it as one polished effect that is searing. The other creative staff of LOVE SICK includes Yuval Ron, Musical Director who plays his wonderful clarinet as he wanders through the show. The music blends traditional sounds of klezmer and flamenco that at times is very infectious.

Jeff Rowlings, is the Production Manager, and the marvelous Matt Cole, choreographer, who created a celebration of exotic dance and the perfect madness for feverish downfall. Erik Flatmo’s set design brings a desert village atmosphere, and the fact that this set has to move to other stages makes it perfect for the scaffolding that houses the boyfriend, sharp yet shabby position on stage. Connie Strayer’s costumes explore the style of Tel Aviv and the women have authentic wear and the men have the same feel. Kate Boyd’s lighting is very moving and she uses ground lights to add a mystery to the folk stories. The mix of blue and green dark tones gives this production a moody feel. Brendan Aanes, sound designer, was missing some depth and I had a difficult time hearing some of the dialogue.

“Love Sick” is a true emotional woman’s passion, and Daniel is on stage for most of the production and is a tour de force of talent. She has a chorus of Women of Jerusalem the fully realized Deborah Del Mastro, Aleksandra Dubov, Bekka Fink and Regina Morones who dance, bitch, gossip are the Greek subtext of this story and the Tirzah’s neighborhood. The infectious Ali Paris carries his string instrument a qanun and is amazing as Tirzah’s lover; has a singing voice that is pitch perfect. “I wish we were twins nursing at the same breast,” Tirzah tells her handsome lover. The songs and dance are constant and wonderful, and keeps this 80 minutes moving.

The important feeling I got when I experienced LOVE SICK went beyond the story. The direction is powerful and the six member orchestra from around the world was awe inspiring and even if I wasn’t so affected by the story, the music alone by Daniel and Lior Ben-Hur is full throttle. LOVE SICK is an emotionally raw new musical and closes March 12 and is a must see. Ofra Daniel is a true artist and dream maker. The madness of LOVE SICK is important new American theatre, and I hope to see this project move to other venues and explore off Broadway in New York.

Jewish Circle Theatre Presents


By Ofra Daniel and Lior Ben-Hur

Directed by Christopher Renshaw, Choreographed by Matt Cole

Music Director Yuval Ron

Closes Sunday March 19

Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts,

500 Castro St. Mt View Ca.

Running time: 80 minutes, no intermission

Tickets: $23-$59;

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