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Play depicts Lebanon as building at risk of collapse

By Reuters - Nov 29,2018 - Last updated at Nov 29,2018

Georges Khabbaz (left), writer, actor and director, performs in the play in Zalka region, east of Beirut, Lebanon, on November 23 (Reuters photo)

BEIRUT — The squabbling residents of a dilapidated building at risk of collapse serve as an allegory for Lebanon’s political and religious divisions in a new drama by satirical playwright Georges Khabbaz.

The play “Only If — Something Changes” is intended to portray the country’s problems while urging its people to love each other, said Khabbaz, who wrote and directed it as well as acting in it.

“The play talks about a lot of contradictions and struggles in our Lebanese societies, about the sectarian conflicts, the system’s conflicts,” he said.

Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war splintered the country along sectarian lines and opened fissures within its Christian and Muslim communities. It still shapes Lebanon’s politics.

The play comes to the stage at a time when political parties have failed to agree on a new coalition government more than six months since an election despite pressing economic problems.

“Lebanese people love life and place the will to live above all consideration, but at the same time circumstances come against them - security, economical etcetera,” Khabbaz said.

The recent bout of political paralysis has prompted fears of economic crisis. Politicians have cited the urgent need for a government to be formed but have been unable to clinch a final deal.

In Khabbaz’s play, the building’s inhabitants cannot agree on how to save it.

At one point, it satirises foreign influence in Lebanon with a man trying to buy the building, his efforts supported or opposed in turn by shifting groups among the residents.

“There is nothing else to talk about in Lebanon than these subjects. There is nothing that unites us other than we all love similar things, love to have fun, we love to progress,” said Maria Jazra, a pharmacist who was in the audience for a recent performance.

“But unfortunately, in our heads we are still not programmed for progress,” she said.

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