The ReturnThe Return
by Hanna Eady and Edward Mast  *  directed by John Vreeke

A gripping mystery set in a run-down automobile repair shop in old Herzliya, this Seattle premiere by Palestinian playwright Hanna Eady and Seattle-based writer with Edward Mast elegantly dramatizes the smoldering tension between a Palestinian mechanic and an attracted, conflicted Israeli Jewish woman from his past. Four Pinteresque scenes deftly unfold a story of love, betrayal, guilt, and challenge.

Seattle Premiere

Dunya Productions  - 720 25th Avenue, Seattle

October 26 - November 19, 2023
HELD OVER thru Dec 3


The Power of Art in Times of War

In times of conflict are artists mere spectators? Or, should their art speak to the moment? The stage play The Return shows us how art can serve as a beacon of understanding and compassion.

Review by Beverly Aarons @

There are no precision-guided missiles striking apartment blocks, no lines of men, women and children trudging through arduous checkpoints, and no battle-ready soldiers waiting in the shadows. In the stage play The Return, there is only a solitary space — a room; and two human beings — a Palestinian and an Israeli who must face each other, the society, and most importantly themselves.  First premiered in 2014 at Al-Midan Theater in Haifa, Israel, The Return (written by playwrights Hanna Eady and Edward Mast) is a powder keg of raw, visceral emotion and a clarifying window into life in Israel. The Return is also a powerful testament to how art can serve as a vanguard of truth, hope, introspection, and the conscience of society.

The Return - Seattle Premiere - Directed by John VreekeWhen I walked into Dunya Productions’ theatrical space, I didn’t know what to expect from The Return. I had already read many articles, watched numerous films, and had subjected myself to the many gruesome images of suffering and death in Gaza, Israel, and the West Bank. But as I sat transfixed by the unfolding drama on stage between an Israeli and Palestinian living inside Israel, I began to understand the relationship between Palestinians and Israelis in a way no news report or talking head political pundit could ever explicate. I could see myself in them. I could see my struggles as an African American living with the personal and political consequences of systemic racism and state-sanctioned apartheid. I saw the struggles of my father who grew up in Jamaica, a British colony. I saw the struggles of my maternal grandfather who was denied an education and his freedom under the Jim Crow laws of Arkansas. But I could also see my arrogance and ignorance as a citizen of the United States. The Return - Seattle Premiere - Directed by John Vreeke
The Return helped me remember that I once assumed that anyone could live anywhere they wanted; only to be disabused of that erroneous notion by a Palestinian photographer who detailed the violent humiliations and arbitrary restrictions he endured while traveling abroad. 
The Return reminded me that I once watched the televised “shock and awe” bombing of an Iraqi city while eating lunch and chatting with coworkers in a Los Angeles high-rise. Monstrous. The Return reminded me that it has taken me a lifetime to begin to fully grasp my position as the oppressed, oppressor, enabler, decoy, liberator, tool, fool, and wise-woman. The Return illuminates the reality that every human being is a vast well of complexity of which we can only glimpse a peek at the most intimate levels of interaction. The Return is not just a play; it’s a mirror in which we can see ourselves clearly; it is a seismic disruption that can shake us from our complacency.

This is the power of art.

Review by Beverly Aarons @

A taut dance disguised as a play: ‘The Return’ keeps audiences white-knuckled with its twists and turns

Review by Andrea Paz | November 22, 2023

PLAY REVIEW: 'The Return' | Directed by John Vreeke | Written by Hanna Eady and Edward Mast
HELD OVER at Cherry Street Village through Dec. 3

Dunya Production’s latest project, “The Return,” comes in the form of a one-act, 75-minute play about two people who meet in an auto-body shop in the mid-sized Israeli city of Herzilya, a high-tech suburb of Tel Aviv. In fact, the play’s cast only consists of these two characters: an Israeli Jewish woman (Anna Daines) and a Palestinian man (Tristan Johnson). By Seattle-based playwrights Edward Mast and Hanna Eady, who is Palestinian, “The Return” starts with a question: the woman asks the man, a mechanic, if he is open on the Sabbath. The woman on stage grows more relentless with each question, each one more bizarre. She asks him, getting in both his face and the audience’s, if they let him work on “army jeeps.”

This tension is aided by the intimate set. The stage is a small space at the center of the theater with canvas cascading above. The lights cast off colors of purple, gray and white as our two characters face across from each other.

The Return - Seattle Premiere - Directed by John VreekeThroughout this first scene, the woman is accusatory and invasive, while the repairman is firm yet always very polite. While he is good at keeping a poker face, he gives away what he is holding back. He begins to recognize her even as he tries to keep her from realizing who he is. Sounds of noise, clashing music and cars transition to make their history clearer. Not only do they know each other —  they share a tragic and romantic past. The man claims he’s rehabilitated after he went to prison for committing a crime against the woman. He is apologetic for his crime and just wants to live a normal life with no trouble. She suspects that he was mistreated in jail and decries his sentence. The man argues that it is for the best and fit for the crime. And in a moment of frustration, she cries that if his crime is really a crime, half the men in Brooklyn would be in jail.

What is the crime? Pretending to be something you’re not to have sex with someone, but the particularity of the crime in “The Return” makes it explicit that he was punished as a Palestinian man lying to an Israeli woman about being Israeli. The tone of his punishment reflects something particular about the Palestinian experience. He can’t express anything about Palestine; he has had his tattoo removed and he is under constant surveillance.

It’s clear he wants peace and quiet, but the woman who has accused him feels deep guilt and seeks him out in her search for atonement. The trial opened the woman’s eyes to the inequality of treatment of Palestinians in Israel, but she still does not recognize the immediate fear the Palestinian man faces every day. She blindly ignores his warning, leading to dangerous ends. “The Return” is unflinching and candid. It’s, yes, a break-up story, but it’s also a larger, more heart-breaking story. It spans beyond the two characters and their conflict to represent something larger. The story has layers of betrayal — betrayal by someone, betrayal by the institution, betrayal by your own self.

The play doesn’t shy away from commenting on oppression and privilege; the woman has good intentions, but even those are from a place of privilege. She insists she can fix the trial sentencing, but he asks her repeatedly to just leave everything alone, including him. Even her outrage displays privilege. This is his life — something he has struggled for longer than the woman has. He has been beaten down for years, while this awakening for her began about seven years ago. Her outrage is fresh and new, not the exhausting burden the man carries.

Up close and direct, “The Return” asks the audience: When we seek redemption, who is it for? When we help, are we also listening? It demands the audience's vulnerability.
The Return - Seattle Premiere - Directed by John Vreeke
This quality persists through the production, as Daines and Johnson are intensely vulnerable in their performances. Their energy comes together when they sit on a bench in the middle of the stage, a design created by both director John Vreeke and co-writer Hanna Eady. The lights by Adem Hay and sound design by Raymann Hill also play together to bring to reality the increasing pressure of the story, playing along its crescendo and finale.

“The Return” touches deeply on colonial guilt and its witnesses. For me, what makes this message so prescient is not only its commentary on the everyday violence of settler colonialism that Palestenians endure in Israel, but also what was happening in the world as I sat for this production on Nov. 12. That night was the 37th in a row that Israel had indiscriminately bombarded Gaza with bombs, rockets and missiles. No place is safe — not the hospitals, not the shelters, not the schools. Every place has been bombed and, by that day, the toll exceeded 10,000 dead Palestinian citizens. As I finish this review and check the news, the toll is closer to 12,000 people dead.

Videos of Palestinian children holding press conferences fill my news feed, as do reports of new terms such as WCNSF, meaning “Wounded Child, No Surviving Family.” We are witness to the Gaza genocide, and we now stand in front of it, just like the woman in the play realizing the horrors of Israeli surveillance, wondering where do we go from here?

The play’s run at Cherry Village Street marks its Seattle premiere, and while it was set to close this past weekend, new show dates have been added to meet demand, with Dec. 1’s ticket proceeds going to Palestinian Children's Relief Fund. So from now until Dec. 3, don’t miss this production of “The Return:” It will be uncomfortable, it will grasp your gaze and it will remain with you hours after the lights dim.

Reviewer Andrea Paz is a writer, DJ and multimedia artist in Seattle. Find her on Twitter at @divergentfemme.

            Click Program Credits to Enlarge:
The Return - Seattle Premiere - Directed by John Vreeke