‘A Shayna Maidel’ packs powerful punch for Holocaust Remembrance

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Lusia (Emily Berman) left, and Rose (Bri Sudia) are two sisters trying to reconnect after years of separation brought on by the Holocaust. (Photo by Lara Goetsch)
Lusia (Emily Berman) left, and Rose (Bri Sudia) are two sisters trying to reconnect after years of separation brought on by the Holocaust. (Photo by Lara Goetsch)

 

What is family? Can it be created or reborn? “A Shayna Maidel” answers these  thoughtful questions in a most profound way. Written in 1984 by Barbara Lebow and now performed as a revival by TimeLine Theatre, the play confronts the horrors and aftermath of the Holocaust.

Two sisters and their father, reunited after years of separation, are now forced to examine their roles, responsibilities and guilt.

Daughter Rose and father Mordechai Weiss were fortunate to escape from Poland before the war. Not so lucky were daughter Lusia, who had scarlet fever and their mother who were left behind.

Rose had left Poland at age 4 and grew up as an American in New York City. She has her own apartment, a job and an independent life. Mordechai has also thrived in his new home, yet steadfastly holds on to his kosher and religious Jewish traditions.

When Lusia survives the war and comes to the U.S. the sisters and their father must forge a new relationship. But Lusia also has a secret. She had a husband whom she believes survived the war and she continues to search for him.

Sisters Lusia (Emily Berman) left and Rose (Bri Sudia) and father Mordechai (Charles Stransky) struggle to reconnect as they remember Mama (Carin Schapiro Silkaitis,) top left and their lives in Poland before the war. (Photo by Lara Goetsch)
Sisters Lusia (Emily Berman) left and Rose (Bri Sudia) and father Mordechai (Charles Stransky) struggle to reconnect as they remember Mama (Carin Schapiro Silkaitis,) top left and their lives in Poland before the war. (Photo by Lara Goetsch)

 

The six member cast is stellar. But Emily Berman as Lusia steals the show exhibiting two different personalities as a happy newlywed before the war and a scarred and flawed survivor afterwards

Bri Sudia as Rose shines as the sister who had few memories of Lusia, but must share her apartment with the newcomer. Her transformation from someone who hid from the pain of the Holocaust to someone who embraces her memories is a joy to behold.

Charles Stransky as father Mordechai portrays a powerful force, yet carries himself with stature, class and pride.

Lusia (Emily Berman) dreams of her husband Duvid (Alex Stein) whose fate she does not know since they were separated during World War II. Photo by Lara Goetsch)
Lusia (Emily Berman) dreams of her husband Duvid (Alex Stein) whose fate she does not know since they were separated during World War II. Photo by Lara Goetsch)

Vanessa Stalling directs the play with precision, creating dark moments on stage that stay with the audience long after the curtain.

The production team includes Rachel K. Levy (Lighting Designer) and Jeffrey Levin (Sound Designer and Composer.) Kudos to Samantha C. Jones as Costume Designer for her bright, colorful 1940s dresses and to TimeLine Associate Artist Collette Pollard as Scenic Designer for her authentic apartment design.

There are so many family dynamics in play. Mordechai is a tyrant and a bully, but only to Rose, and not to Lusia. The continued messages are the “flesh and bone” that unites them and the belief that “everything is the will of G-d.”

The set of the play is a small, intimate theater, making you feel like you are part of the story.  Don’t miss it.

DETAILS:  “A Shayna Maidel” is at TimeLine Theatre, 615 W. Wellington Ave., Chicago through Nov. 4, 2018. Running time: 2 hours and 20 minutes, with one intermission. For tickets and other information, call (773) 281-8463 x6 and visit timelinetheatre.com.

Mira Temkin

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

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