Opening this year’s ongoing Avignon Festival in southeastern France, “The War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness” is a production inspired by Josephus’s “War of the Jews,” conceived and staged by Israeli director Amos Gitai. Gitai’s uncompromising films include “Kadosh” (1999), “Kippur” (2000), “Alila” (2003) and “Free Zone “(2005).
Possibly misleadingly, the show’s title is taken not from Josephus, but from a manual for military organization and strategy that was discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Recounting such pivotal episodes after the First Jewish-Roman War as the mass suicide of the Sicarii rebels in the Roman garrison of Masada and the destruction of the Second Temple on Tisha B’Av, the play is narrated by French screen legend Jeanne Moreau, who recently starred in Gitai’s much-praised film “One Day You’ll Understand” (“Plus tard, tu comprendras,” 2008) as a Jewish mother whose parents were murdered in Nazi concentration camps, but kept this information from her own children.
But it is not Moreau who gets top billing in “The War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness.” It’s the Forward’s advertising director Jerry Koenig, who plays the role of the Roman emperor Vespasian. He’ll be back at the Forward offices in August, but will briefly return to France for the play’s Paris run in January.
Since French, English, and Arabic are heard onstage as part of the play, it would seem a natural for the kind of multi-lingual programming of the Next Wave Festival at Brooklyn Academy of Music (or BAM), so New Yorkers can always hope they’ll be able to catch the unusual cocktail of Josephus, Moreau and Koenig mixed with a twist of Gitai.