Michael Kovner’s first graphic novel, “Ezekiel’s World,” recently adapted for the stage by playwright Jenny Levison, peers into the uncomfortable world of things left unsaid between father, (Ezekiel) and son, (Amos); husband, (Amos) and wife, (Yvonne); and of history itself.
An Israeli painter who studied in New York with artist Philip Guston in the 1970s, Kovner is also the son of Israeli poet and Vilna Ghetto fighter, Abba Kovner, who died in 1987. Seen in its February premiere at the JCC in Manhattan, directed by Michael Barakiva, “Ezekiel’s World” finds the protagonist, a thinly disguised Abba Kovner, portrayed as a forgotten man – a writer whose poems and ideas, as well as his place in history, are no longer part of contemporary culture.
Downgrading one’s father is tough business, but it’s an excellent way to strip-down a hero’s identity. In the first scene, a physical therapist (Na’ama) visits Ezekiel’s Jerusalem home, giving the poet someone to not only fix him, but to speak to. Set in several cities, including San Francisco, where Ezekiel’s son and family live, as well as in Jerusalem and Vilna, the story moves between the 1991 Gulf War and World War II, and culminates in the pivotal moment of Ezekiel’s life, the Vilna Ghetto uprising. (Abba Kovner and the Partisans escaped through the sewers, but his mother was left behind and died.)