Standing legs apart on a balance board about to juggle three sharp kitchen knives, Sara Felder announces that discussing Israel is the scariest thing she has ever done onstage. More honest than disingenuous, though, she amends that statement to admit it is this very juggling act that is the scariest.
Either way, in “Out of Sight,” her one-woman show at The Marsh, Felder rocks.
An equally gifted solo performer, circus artist and writer, she has — as always — a funny and poignant autobiographical tale to tell. And under David O’Connor’s fluid, perfectly paced direction, she tells it beautifully.
“Out of Sight” is about the fraught but loving relationship between Felder and mother. The latter, whose family emigrated to New York from a shtetl in Eastern Europe, is legally blind, the result of gazing in wonder at a solar eclipse as a child.
Her vision-challenged persona not only provides comic fodder, but also serves as a metaphor for the central issue that Felder examines — the ways the two fail to see eye to eye about the modern-day conundrum that is Israel.
In presenting her animated, opinionated mom — along with her own first love (a Southern girl) and her goofy, folk-dancing friend, “Almost Normal” Norman — Felder effortlessly embodies their external mannerisms and their deeper drives.
When playing herself, she is the simpatico straight woman — “straight” as in the perplexed Everyman figure surrounded by quirky, comic characters — who emerges from childhood into adulthood.
Spending a year in Israel, to her mother’s delight, she is at first enamored of the Jewish state and later critical of its policies toward Palestinians. That leads to the unresolved conflict with her mother.
“You’re so blinded by the Holocaust that you think everything Israel does is right!” accuses Felder.
“I don’t recognize you!” shrieks the mother, who, in a flashback, tells little Sara, “The fate of Israel — it all depends on you.”
Felder’s deft signature juggling — in this piece, not just the alarming knives but also lemons, chiffon scarves, a ball that seems to dance under its own steam and stacks of cigar boxes — is integral, reflecting inner emotional states or important physical images.
Also, she dances the hora and sings a bit. The sound score, designed by Matthew Lorenz, is equally integral to the story and includes opera, Israeli folks songs, Joni Mitchell and jazz.
In an especially inspired bit, Felder tells part of her mother’s tale by way of enchanting little shadow puppets (created by Morgan FitzPatrick Andrews) on a tiny stage.
Out of Sight
Where: The Marsh, 1062 Valencia St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays; closes Feb. 13
Tickets: $20 to $50
Contact: (800) 838-3006, www.themarsh.org