Kedar K. Adour

Performing Arts Reviews

The Unveiling is taut drama within a Jewish family that escaped Nazi Germany

The Unveiling: Drama by Linda Ayres Frederick. Directed by Julie Dimas-Lockfeld.  Phoenix Theatre: 414 Mason Street Suite 601, SF, 94102. (415) 336-1020, or  www.phoenixtheatresf.org.

October 7-October 28, 2017

The Unveiling is taut drama within a Jewish family that escaped Nazi Germany. Rating: ★★★☆☆

Many plays focus on the effect of past events on family relationships and so it is with Linda Ayres Frederick’s taut drama The Unveiling that brings memories of the holocaust and what it took to survive. If there are hidden dark secrets in that survival is it necessary to reveal them? Both sides of that question are explored allowing the audience to become intellectually and emotionally involved. Within the play there is a line “Like feathers in a pillow they explode when ripped open.” Suggesting that some secrets are better buried. The secrets are events that took place 20 years ago in Nazi Germany.

The play begins in 1963 with flashbacks to 1943 and 1938 and flash forward to 1973. The flash backs are deftly woven into play giving credence to their effect on the characters. The characters immediately affected are Auschwitz survivor Herschel Rabinovitz aka Pop (Richard Aiello) and his two daughters. They are Sadie (Juliet Tanner) the oldest and young Natalie (Valerie Weaks). They have a comfortable life in their Brooklyn flat but at times violence occurs in the hallway requiring the outside door to be locked.

There is a secondary storyline involving upstairs neighbor Mrs. Goldfarb (Lynda Ayres Frederick) living with her daughter married to an abusive husband. Her involvement to the impending crisis is ancillary but by including her in the mix author Frederick creates a sounding board for the family conflict as well as adding much needed humor.

The non-linear construction allows the story to evolve scene by scene beginning with reference to Jews being transported in cattle cars. Herschel, his wife Malka (Valerie Weaks again) and her younger brother Shmuel (Evan Sokol) are in one of those cars. It can be inferred that Sadie and Natalie as children were part of the Kindertransport and are safe. Through a horrendous set circumstances Herschel and Shmuel escape and Malka is sent to the gas chamber.

The life in the Rabinowitz household ominously begins to change when a mysterious letter arrives from Israel and Pops does not open it because it would bring back horrendous memories. The person who wrote that letter is Shmuel who knows and has taken part in “secret” that becomes the touchstone of the play. Yes, there was a questionable act that led to freedom for two and death for one. Is there justification for self-survival at all cost?

There is question about justification for the act may be mute but the question of value 20 years later in revealing the “facts” surrounding the survival is the heart of the play. In the flash-backs a Nazi guard and other Germans (Michael Shipley) appear in Pop’s memory giving support to any decision Pop makes. Sadly there is dichotomy of opinion that drives a wedge between the sisters just as there is between Shmuel and Pops.

That decision is life changing for the present family unit. In Auschwitz the fork in the road that dictates a right or left path must be taken can and was life changing for the imprisoned Rabinovitzs. The husband went right and lived and the wife went left and died.

Unfortunately the final decision involves a monolog peppered with the right and left path analogy that is anticlimactic leading to a confused 10 year later epilog.

Richard Aiello handles the most difficult role of a person tortured by guilt for past deeds fairly well but is never able to convey his torment to the audience. Valerie Weak and Juliet Tanner are perfect for their roles and their pain of decision making feels real.  It is Ayres-Frederick underplaying the role of Mrs. Goldfarb who earns the Emmy for a supporting performance.

The limited confines of the Phoenix Theatre hinders the directorial skills of any director yet Julie Dimas-Lockfeld keeps the actors on track with Michael Shipley being an exception not generating the proper menace with his entrance and exits.

The play runs about one hour and 45 minutes with a 10 minute intermission and is a “should see” with reservations.

CAST: Linda Ayres-Frederick (Playwright, Mrs. Goldfarb); Julie Dimas-Lockfeld (Director); Richard Aiello (Herschel); Michael Shipley (German Soldier, voice of Sammy); Evan Sokol (Shmuel); Juliet Tanner (Sadie); Valerie Weak (Natalie and Malka).                   

CREATIVE Staff: Ian Walker (Sound & Light Design); Prem Lathi (Costume Designer); Gary Gonser (Set Design); Colin Hussey (Graphic Designer); Madison Worthington (Stage Manager).

Kedar Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com

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