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David Hare's journey to the Middle East becomes powerful theater in "Via Dolorosa." 

Path of Discovery

Which matters most — stones or words?

My vote goes for words, and David Hare's masterful "Via Dolorosa" proves the point.

Hare, the British playwright, is on a roll this year. He was knighted recently by the Queen. On top of that, three new plays by Hare opened on Broadway recently — "The Blue Room" with Nicole Kidman, "Amy's View" starring Dame Judi Dench, and "Via Dolorosa," a one-person show starring Hare himself.

PBS-TV will televise a performance of "David Hare's Via Dolorosa," taped before an invited audience at Broadway's Booth Theatre. The play opened in London to rave reviews before moving to New York.

"Via Dolorosa" — Latin for "the path of sorrows," a reference to the road that Jesus took on his way to the crucifixion — is the result of a trip Hare made to the Middle East in 1997. He had been invited many times, but had never found the time. However, on the occasion of Israel's 50th anniversary — and of Hare's 50th birthday — he went. But he didn't stop with Israel. He also crossed over into Arab territory.

The trip had a profound effect on Hare. It turned into a journey of self-discovery.

When he returned, he wrote "Via Dolorosa," which is essentially a monologue about what he saw in the Middle East and the effect the trip had on him personally. It is at times funny, often sad, occasionally depressing, and constantly uplifting. Always, however, it is powerful theater, ample evidence that Hare deserves to be numbered among the most fearless and prolific political playwrights of our time.

Remarkably, it is the first time in his professional life that Hare has appeared on stage — remarkable because he gives every indication that he is as comfortable in front of an audience as he is in his own living room.

Hare is perhaps uniquely qualified to create a vision as singularly commanding as he has in "Via Dolorosa." He is a gentile, but he is married to a Jew who is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. His wife's cousin is married to a black man. Another cousin lives with an Arab. Imagine, if you can, what family gatherings must be like for such a clan.

Don't let the idea of a 90-minute monologue give you pause. "David Hare's Via Dolorosa" will be the most moving hour-and-a-half of television you'll see this summer. And when the curtain falls, you'll wish there were
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