Posts Tagged ‘Faye Sholiton’

G-d’s Honest Truth

April 28th, 2015 No comments

Save a Torah

I went to see G-d’s Honest Truth, a play by Renee Calarco, at Dobama’s space last night. The play was staged by Interplay Jewish Theatre in partnership with Dobama and made possible by the strong work that Faye Sholiton always puts into her projects.

G-d’s Honest Truth is a good, solid play that, I’m sure, started its life when Ms. Calarco heard the tale of Rabbi Menachem Youlus, who trolled the Eastern seaboard of the United States from 2004-2010 selling Torahs with fake histories.

As a playwright—-hell, as a person, like many other people—-I’ve heard my share of strange stories or stories that are pretty incredible. But as a playwright in particular I’ve thought to myself: “Myself, how do I dramatize this.” With the peculiar case of Rabbi Youlus in mind, I think Calarco has really done something impressive: not only has she managed to contextualize the events, but also she has managed to frame them in the history of a family and a community—not just in the sense of how the events impacted a family and community adversely (and the implications of it), but also how the events, in an odd way, lifted a family and community and enlivened it. These are contrary impulses, but life is filled with contradiction and Calarco does a great job of balancing them.

Youlus, in Calarco’s play, is named “Dov,” and was read by Stuart Hoffman: who seems to be everywhere these days—which is good because Hoffman is quite talented and always fun to see. Dov first appears with a married couple (Laura Perrotta and Scott Plate) whose son (Greg Violand) is about to be married. Larry (Plate) is carefully and meticulously inscribing the ketubah while Roberta (Perrotta) is having her dress made and ranting about how Larry has waited until the last minute to create ketubah when he had the whole of a two-year engagement to get it done. Dov casually drops the story of the “Holocaust Torah” and how a Polish priest unearthed it at Auschwitz, miraculously. The torah was wrapped in the torn clothing of the prisoners and even had bloodstains on it. Dov comments that a nearby synagogue is considering purchasing it, a fact that stings the impulse of Roberta and Larry. The two convince the board of their own synagogue to purchase the Holocaust Torah, which it does for half-a-million dollars. This story of the play winds on until we learn that another synagogue has a Holocaust Torah with the identical story, and, perhaps more egregious still, Dov locates a long lost copy of Anne Frank’s Diary that Anne was translating into English for practice. She had only completed two or so pages.

The absurdity of the background of these ‘holy relics’ and the bidding wars that they inspire in a community of people is another piece of the backdrop for this play, as is the microcosm of the family and individuals who have to consider their own faith and reliance on stories.

Ultimately, Calarco makes effective use of the Youlus story turning it into a launching point for her play, creating a deeper and more important meditation on what faith is, what family is, what history means, and how each of us fits into it.

Valerie Kilmer, a member of the chorus, played Violand’s fiancée; as well, both Tim Keo and Khaki Hermann filled out the chorus of the very entertaining play which was read before a full Dobama house.

Telling Lives

February 29th, 2012 No comments

Telling Lives at Dobama

Went and saw Telling Lives at Dobama a few weeks back; Super Bowl Sunday, to be precise. Written by Faye Sholiton several years back and then dusted off, revised, updated, re-written, pick you choice phrase, and presented in the Playwrights’ Gym. Telling Lives is a strong piece of writing and a fine piece of theater.

Telling Lives adeptly and gracefully tells the story of three generations of women in the Garver/Klein family. Appropriately, what is most telling about the relationship between each woman is what isn’t said at all. It is clear from the start that years of tension and unsaid things have left each woman defensive, guarded, and isolated, and we, as an audience, will bear witness to either the terrible destruction of these women or the reversal of their fortunes.

The matriarch of the family is Ruth Garver (Rhonda Rosen), an older woman who is teetering on the edge of both decline and intervention. Living alone, she is forgetful and moving ever closer to the point at which she cannot take care of herself. It is, presumably at the start, this aspect of her life that leads her to write an autobiography, which becomes a lightning rod. Ruth’s daughter, Geri Klein (Maryann Elder) is an editor at a newspaper and the ex-wife of a now highly successful fiction writer. These two facts alone allow for the edge of cynicism we see in her, but she has also been scarred and hardened by other relationships in her life: notably with her daughter, her mother, her father, and her dead sister. Geri’s daughter, Rachel, (Emily Pucell) is a rebellious thirty-something playwright who has taking to airing the family misfortunes through her stage plays. Finally, we learn that it is Rachel, who’s desire to air more dirty laundry on stage, prodded the matriarch, Ruth, to write her autobiography. The main intent, it seems, is to discover what happened to her dead aunt and the reason for it. Again, Sholiton adeptly brings the play to a dramatic head by having the autobiography be more problematic for what has been left out, rather than what has been put in it. Coupled with this, is the natural instinct that Geri has, being an editor, to correct, cut, revise, and goad her mother into revisions–which Ruth does not want to make.

Ultimately, the mystery that surrounds the autobiography and the secret related to the dead aunt/sister/daughter is a MacGuffin to expose and examine what is most important in this play: the way in which family members relate to one another: how they hurt each other, recover, and how they love each other.

Sholiton has written a wonderful play with strong characters who are witty, vibrant, and delightful to watch.

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