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August 04, 1989 - Image 68

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-08-04

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Actors, from left, Avner Eisenberg, Gordon Weiss and Helen Schneider
appear in a scene from Ghetto.

Special to The Jewish News

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11 the world's a stage
— and for the Jews of
Vilna during World
War II, that stage was set
within the painful
parameters of a Nazi-occupied
ghetto.
Ghetto, by Israeli play-
wright Joshua Sobol, explores
the function of a makeshift
Jewish theatrical troupe in
Vilna trying to make do with
the horrors of the Holocaust,
using theater as a deadbolt to
keep the door to death closed.
"This is an important play,"
says Avner Eisenberg,
"because it is not just about
the ghetto but about the
genocide that went on and the
overwhelming will to sur-
vive."
Eisenberg has just captured
the coveted character role of
director of the theatrical
troupe, which stages a play
within the play.
Long accustomed to break-
ing theater's fourth wall as
"Avner the Eccentric,"
popular mime and juggler,
Eisenberg finds that Ghetto
releases a wall of emotion for
him about his Jewish
heritage.
"This play is about making
real choices," he says.
It is a choice role for
Eisenberg, who also has acted
in the film Jewel of the Nile.
It is also an opportunity to
break the sound barrier — a
rare opportunity given a
stage persona that leaves him
speechless on stage.
While he is used to hearing
laughs during performances
all over the country,
Eisenberg must now get used

to the rigors of this very dif-
ferent king of role. "This play
can get very heavy," he says.
Yet, says Eisenberg, the real
Vilna theater group did their
best, hoping against hope for
a happy ending in the real-life
drama played out in their
Lithuanian ghetto.
"They even had bands per-
form in the ghetto," says
Eisenberg. "I don't know if it
was an avoidance of reality or
what."
Eisenberg is infusing the
theatrical Vilna theater

'This is an
important play
because it is not
just about the
ghetto but about
the genocide that
went on and the
overwhelming will
to survive:

group with a reality that
stems from his special style of
performance. Hailed as a
watershed entertainer in the
new wave of vaudevillians,
Eisenberg is passing on some
of his expertise.
"I've got four guys in the
group doing vaudeville
crossovers," he says.
Ghetto has crisscrossed the
world to acclaim prior to its
Broadway debut. There have
been productions in Sobol's
homeland as well as in West
Germany and Chicago, Los
Angeles and Washington,
D.C.
The message is the same
wherever Ghetto is performed.
"This is not an ethnic piece,"
says Eisenberg. "This is about
survival." ❑

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