Jeff Smith 12:01 p.m., March 29
A Shayna Maidel
A shayna maidel, in Yiddish, means "pretty girl." And by that definition Luisa Weiss is anything but. Gaunt and doom-eyed, she's a survivor of Hitler's concentration camps. She lost her husband, mother, child, and closest friend. Words like "loss" and "devastation" aren't strong enough for her plight. But shayna has other, more intrinsic meanings: it's a spark or radiant light, a kindness, a sense of hope. Somehow Luisa has kept these qualities and, amazingly, is a shayna maidel. Barbara Lebow's drama highlights the polar contrasts between Luisa and her sister and father, who fled Poland and have lived, comfortably, in New York. The play is quite moving (though slow to evolve and easy to anticipate). The best parts of the capable North Coast Rep production often come between the lines, in eloquent silences when words, and even emotions, become inadequate to express the unthinkable. Jessica John excels as Luisa, who begins the play as barely an ember and gradually reignites. Ralph Elias does first-rate work as the father (does he fully comprehend the Holocaust? Does he suffer from paralyzing survivor guilt, deep denial?). Donning Jeanne Reith's bright rose outfits, Christy Hall does a nice turn as the sister shielded from horror. Maya Baldwin, D. Candis Paule, and Christopher M. Williams provide valuable support. As does the design work by Marty Burnett (set), Matt Novotney (lighting), and Chris Luessmann (sound).
Worth a try.
When: Ongoing until Sunday, March 23, 2008
- Sundays, 2pm & 7pm
- Thursdays, 8pm
- Fridays, 8pm
- Saturdays, 8pm