Everything is Illuminated has a split personality at Aurora.

(L-R)Julian Lopez-Morillas as Grandfather, Adam Burch as Alex, Jeremy Kahn as Jonathan in Everything Is Illuminated at the Aurora.)

Everything Is Illuminated: Drama by Simon Block adapted from the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer. Directed by Tom Ross. Aurora Theatre Company, 2081 Addison Street, Berkeley, CA. (510) 843-4822 or at www.auroratheatre.org.

November 9 – December 9, 2018, 2018

Everything is Illuminated  has a split personality at Aurora. Rating: ★★★★☆

Jonathan Safran Foer’s first novel “Everything is Illuminated” was successfully received in its 2002 publication and was made into a not so successful film in 2005. Since that time he proved the prediction of a successful writing career with other novels. Playwright Simon Block saw the potential of a stage version of Foer’s first novel and created the adaptation that is receiving a stunning but overlong production at the intimate Aurora Theatre.

Foer has used a clever technique to tell his semi-autographical tale. He creates a character for his storytelling with the name of Jonathan Safran Foer who travels to the Ukraine in search of Augustine a woman who may have saved his Jewish grandfather during World War II. The protagonist of the same name is now a participant, observer and a recorder.

The book and play are written in two parts with the first being the search for the woman in the Ukraine told in actual time while the second is a fanciful family history going back to 18th century Poland in a shtetl (a Jewish neighborhood) that was later destroyed by the Nazis. Where act one is full of humor act two brings back the horrors of Jewish prosecutions. 

The first act seamlessly unfolds with the Ukrainian story teller Alex (Adam Burch) waiting for Jonathan (Jeremy Kahn). Alex, his questionably blind grandfather (Julian Lopez Morillas) as driver and Sammy Davis, Jr their unseen uncouth dog are the guides to find a stetl named Trachimbrod that no longer exists.

Director Ross takes a Thornton Wilder stage direction by creating a car of moveable chairs and a steering wheel that takes them on their search that is not to reach fruition. On their trek Alex and Jonathan bond although conflict arises as Alex questions some of Jonathan’s written words. At times in the search the grandfather refers to “the American Jews” suggesting antisemitism that later becomes a major theme in the play.

Beautiful cogent writing takes Jonathan on the mystical quest seeking his centuries old heritage. Fitted into that writing is a gut-wrenching monolog of an individual action used to justify survival and the difficulty of living with those actions. Morillas the ultimate professional actor nails the inner turmoil of the character that may make you cringe and possible agree with the perpetrator’s actions.

In that fateful second act the author writes in a part for a mysterious old woman (Lura Dolas) whose wooden selves hold memorabilia of past times that have edifying yet devastating effects on those seeking the truth. Adam Burch is a dynamo of perfect timing playing the multiple personality traits of Alex and appropriately frightening as Polish officer Sofiowka. Jeremy Kahn never fails to impress with his acting skills and his body language responding to the actions the unseen but heard dog could not be improved. Mariss Keltie more than adequately fills in as all the other characters.

The creative crew are integral to the polished production requiring a plethora of visual, light and sound cues.

This is Tom Ross’s last play before he retires. Under his multitalented leadership Aurora has maintained it reputation as the “thinking man’s Theatre.”

Running time  is two hours and 20 minutes with an intermission.

CAST:  Adam Burch as Alex/Sofiowka; Lura Dolas as Woman; Jeremy Kahn as Jonathan; Marissa Keltie as Brod and Other Characters; Julian Lopez-Morillas as Grandfather/Yankel.

CREATIVE TEAM: Scenic Designer Kate Boyd; Lighting Designer Kurt Landisman; Props Master Eric Johnson; Dialect Coach Nancy Carlin Dramaturg Ula Madej-Krupitski; Costume Designer Callie Floor; Sound Designer Matt Stines; Mask Artisan Kendra Johnson; Fight Director Elena Wright; Stage Manager Susan M. Reamy.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com