[pullquote3 quotes=”true” align=”center”]Play Review[/pullquote3]
“I wanted to write the type of show with all strong female characters, where no actress would feel shunted or slighted with whatever part they had been given,” said Stephanie Bramson ’12, writer of Shadayim.
The play, directed by Adrienne Miranda ’14, tells the story of four young women — two sets of sisters: Zoe (Amanda Green, Zumba instructor) and Michele (Meghan Carlton, professor of English at York College and Penn State York), and Sarah (Laura Casey ’12) and Lea (Rachel Gold ’12). Michelle and Zoe are conservative Jews who have just lost their mother to breast cancer, while Sarah and Lea are their orthodox cousins who have come to comfort the girls in their time of need, during the Shiva (mourning) period.
Shadayim was put on as a work-shop play, where the audience was able to ask questions and offer suggestions and comments at the end. Most flaws of the play can be written off as technical — ones that would be fixed for an official staging: the cast read from their scripts while acting, the intermission was unannounced, and the venue itself was not the most comfortable place to be (read: extremely hot, due to loud air conditioners that would make the actresses inaudible). All these have nothing to do with the play itself.
Judaism is an integral aspect of the play. All four women are Jewish, but each one deals with religion in a different way.
“One thing I’ve always loved about Judaism is that the more religious you get, the more you’re not only allowed but encouraged and expected to question the religion,” Bramson said.
I am not Jewish so I cannot say what the impact would have been for someone who is, but I thought the portrayal of Judaism in the play was captivating. The characters’ discussions of their faith cannot be described in any other way than very real.
The best part of the play was actually the lack of action; it focuses much more on the characters themselves. Every individual character deals with a unique issue explored throughout the play. All issues are extremely relatable. Very few stage productions are able to capture the many layers contained inside a human being, but Shadayim truly does this. The only flaw I experienced with regard to the characters was the lack of audience-perceived misery. Their mother and aunt has just died, yet they rarely break out into tears or anything of the sort. Perhaps they are still in shock be- cause the death of their mother has happened so soon (two days) before the play begins.
The discussions between the characters give the audience the impression that women today can do anything they want and no one can stop them. Women have power and, although we live in a more feminist world than in the past, this is sometimes forgotten. This female-focused play was unlike anything I have seen before.
The play opens with Michele; she has just lost her mother and is now staying with her father and sister during Shiva period so she can help them and mourn as a family. She is a typical older sister who argues with her younger sister, but really loves her more than anything. She is a devout, conservative Jew who feels she needs to replace her mother by being there for her father and sister. Her development throughout the play focuses on her trying to let go of helping everyone else and just spend some time focusing on herself.
Next is Zoe, the younger sister of Michele. She is a cam-girl, but she only started being one after her mother was taken to the hospital for breast cancer. She swears and does not keep up with, or know much about, her Jewish faith. Her character seems to me the most stable throughout the play — she knows who she is and she has done what she needs to for herself. I think she is definitely the strongest character in the play; it is obvious she needs no one to help her. She knows how to handle herself in any situation, including accepting the death of her mother.
Sarah is the oldest of Zoe and Michele’s Orthodox cousins. At the beginning of the play she seems like the perfect Orthodox Jew who does everything she needs to do, including being there to help her cousins in their time of need (expected of visitors to a “Shiva house”). Her growth occurs when she has to work through whether or not she should accept the fact that she is homosexual.
Lea is the younger sister of Sarah and the youngest one in the play. She is the typical rebellious teenager, and spends the majority of the play trying to be like controversial Zoe when she doesn’t even know who Zoe truly is. Her development lies in her realization that she is acting out to get attention from her older sister. She is a quintessential teenager, and this aspect of her is truly captured in the play.
The acting was really great. By the end of the play, I was looking at the actors not as they were but as if they were their characters. When they were answering questions about the characters after the show, a few of them spoke in first person as if they were talking about themselves. They truly believed the characters just as much as Bramson and Miranda did.
“I’m really happy with the way this run turned out,” Bramson said after the performance. “Adrienne Miranda, the director, has been great to work with from the be- ginning, and between her and the cast, it’s just been a really relaxed and fun group to work with. These guys put a lot of work into their characters and shaping and fine-tuning them, both for themselves and for me, and it’s been great to come to rehearsal every day and see my imaginary friends become tactile.”
Her work on paper has become real: the play has truly captured these realistic characters while emphasizing the importance of Judaism and feminism.
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