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February 09, 1990 - Image 80

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-02-09

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

ENTERTAINMENT I

OF SOUTHFIELD

Invites You To Enjoy .. .

FREE DINNER

WITH PURCHASE OF DINNER OF EQUAL OR GREATER VALUE
GOOD 7 DAYS A WEEK
SATURDAY SEATING PRIOR TO 6 p.m. OR AFTER 8:30 p.m.

(EXCLUDING SEA BASS, LAMB CHOPS & LIQUOR)

MOST DINNERS $6.95 TO $10.95 • PRESENT COUPON • EXCLUDES HOLIDAYS

Expires 2/15/90 1

L.

FABULOUS
SUNDAY BRUNCH $7 50

I PER PERSON • LIMIT 10 PEOPLE
L WITH COUPON • EXCLUDES HOLIDAYS •

Expires 2/15/90

25060 SOUTHFIELD RD (1 Block North of 10 mile)557.8910

A■ 1•11MINIIIIIP

Whit Vernon, Karen Leiner star with their `Shayna Maidel,' Mirjana Urosev.

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855-4600

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ANY LARGE PIZZA I
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INCLUDING OUR BEANS L With Coupon • Expires Feb. 28, 1990 JNJ

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FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 1990

1 1

`Shayna Maidel': Heartache
Of A Family Reunion

KENNETH JONES

Special to The Jewish News

uring its recent
successful run off-
Broadway at the
Westside Arts Theatre, Bar-
bara Lebow's fragile A
Shayna Maidel overwhelmed
its audience at every
performance.
Jewish theatergoers wept
openly as they witnessed
what, for many, was the
shared story of a Jewish Euro-
pean immigrant who reunites
with the few members of her
family who survived the
history and circumstances of
the 1930s and '40s.
In the case of the Weiss
family in Lebow's play, the
refugee is elder daughter
Lusia, a Polish death-camp
survivor. Although she is
moving forward by coming to
New York City to live with
her father and sister, she is
emotionally strapped in the
past.

Samuel Pollak, who
directed the Attic theatre pro-
duction of A Shayna Maidel,
now playing through Feb. 25,
reacted to the play much like
those New York theatergoers
did.
"I read the play and wept
like a madman," says Pollak,
of Oak Park, who has acted
and directed at Detroit's At-
tic before.
After reading Lebow's 1985
play last year, Pollak "fired
off" a letter to Attic artistic
director Lavinia Moyer sug-
gesting the title for her next
season and offering himself as
director. Pollak says Moyer
agreed, but wanted him to
play the role of Duvid, Lusia's
missing husband. Moyer soon
changed her mind and Pollak

was enlisted to direct (David
Wilcox now plays Duvid.)
"I am an immigrant child,"
says Pollak, 38. "My parents
came over in 1955. My
mother had been in
Auschwitz; my father was
captured by the Russians and
shlepped off to some Russian
prisoner-of-war camp to chop
trees. The refugee process
that Lusia goes through (in
the play), my parents just
went through it a couple
years later.
"I think that's the key
reason why Lavinia asked me
to direct the play, and the
reason it touches me so deep-
ly," says Pollak. "That was
part of my background. When
I read in the play about HIAS,
the Hebrew Immigrant Aid
Society, well, HIAS was in-
strumental in my being an
American today. My folks had
to smuggle themselves out of
Hungary after the war
because the borders were clos-
ed. The meeting place was
Vienna, and the people who
helped you along the route in
Vienna were from HIAS."
In A Shayna Maidel, Lusia
arrives in New York with the
help of HIAS, and gets daily
reports about missing Euro-
pean relatives from the HIAS
office.
"There was a huge network
to help refugees — there were
tremendous forces out there
helping people to find one
another," says Pollak, who
was born in Israel after his
parents left Vienna.
He says his parents don't
know the play, but he's talk-
ed with them about the ex-
perience of their flights from
Europe after the war, and, in
particular, the refugee
assimilation process, which is
a major concern of the play.

In preparing to direct the
play, Pollak also drew on the
wealth of material about the
period, including Martin
The
Gilbert's study,
Holocaust, and Herman
Wouk's historical fiction, The
Winds of War and War and
Remembrance.
"The reading was only
apropos to the play in an
underbelly kind of sense,"
says Pollak. "It's not about
the camps, per se. We talk
about antagonist and pro-
tagonist: What happened
prior to the play is the real
antagonist?'
The characters, in 1946
New York, must deal with the
results of the war.
Some 15 years prior to the
main action of the narrative,
Lusia (played at the Attic by
Mirjana Urosev) and Mama
(Jaye Cooper) were not able to
travel to America because
Lusia was ill with scarlet
fever. Father Mordechai (Whit
Vernon) and younger
daughter Rose (Karen Leiner)
went ahead to Brooklyn, and
by the time Mama and Lusia
were ready to- travel, the
Depression had hit
worldwide, and the Nazis con-
trolled Europe.
"If this family would have
lived at another point in time,
they probably would not have
had the problems they have,"
Pollak says. "They certainly
wouldn't have had the specific
problems — the death — but
they probably wouldn't have
had the communication dif-
ficulties because the situation
would not have been exag-
gerated by tragedy. But that's
part of what makes great
theater."
In the playwright's notes in
the printed text of the play,
Brooklyn-born Lebow writes,

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