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February 01, 1991 - Image 61

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-02-01

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An Isaac Bashevis Singer play
is brought to life at the Attic.

Special to The Jewish News


n erotic fable from
the pen of Isaac
Bashevis Singer is
reborn at Detroit's Attic
Theater this week with the
play Teibele and Her Demon.
Adapted from the short
story by the Nobel laureate
and Eve Friedman, the play is
set in a small Jewish village
in Poland where Teibele, an
agunah, deserted wife, suffers
the fate of not being able to
remarry. When Alochonon, a
scholar, overhears Teibele's
erotic fantasies, he disguises
himself as a demon and
seduces her.
The Attic Theatre has pro-
0 duced other Jewish-themed
plays in the past, most
notably last • season's A
Shayna Maidel. But the pro-
duction of Teibele represents
a few departures from
theatrical convention. For one
thing, none of the lead actors
is Jewish.
As director Blair Anderson
explains, "We're not trying to
be sacriligious. At the Attic
our philosophy is the best ac-
tor for the best role." Besides,
working on the play has given
• - both the cast and Mr. Ander-
son, a self-described "Mid-
west boy from Iowa raised
Lutheran," a new viewpoint
on Jewish culture. "I find a
real fascination with the
Jewish way of life," says Mr.
Anderson. "It encompasses a
complete lifestyle!'
As for dealing with Mr.
Singer's often mystical con-
tent, Mr. Anderson, who read
some of the author's works in

coming for a history lesson,
they'll find this production a
different, larger experience."
Wayne David Parker, who
plays Alchonon, sees his role
as a dual one: "He's a lonely
scholar who studies Kabbalah

(Jewish mystical writings),
and becomes a sort of alter-
He likes the fantasy
elements of the play. "People'
will identify with us in that
we all have fantasies we've

Photos by Glenn Triest


college, says he had no pro-
blem with promoting Teibele
as a production. He chanced
upon the play a few years ago
and found himself attracted
to "the mystery of it, the
otherworldliness of it. Sin is
"There's an attraction in
the characters of Teibele and
Alchonon," Mr. Anderson
says. "A lot of times we, like
Teibele, get trapped by day-to-
day life. Freed, we can express
some deeper truths, even if
they are in the form of a lie!'
Lavinia Moyer, artistic
director of the Attic Theatre,
readily agreed to produce
Teibele and Her Demon, not
only because of what she
praises as Mr. Singer's
"poetry and musicality" of
language but also for the
chance to try a drama out of
the ordinary. The non-
traditional casting, featuring
actors of various races and
ages, serves to enhance the
universality of Mr. Singer's
themes. It's a "fascinating
undertaking," she says.
Ms. Moyer and company
feel that in Mr. Singer they
have found a kindred spirit.
"I see that his work has been
controversial, from an Or-
thodox point of view. Singer
has dealt with that his whole
career as a writer," Ms. Moyer
says. What the Attic has done
is visually interpret the
author's style in a way that
traditionalists may find
"This production is special,"
says Ms. Moyer. "As far as be-
ing a literary piece, Teibele is
one of our favorite shows."
But let the conservative-
minded beware: "If anyone is

Mirjana Urosev and Wayne Parker in "Teibele and
Her Demon."

never talked about before!'
For this actor, Teibele provid-
ed a quick education.
"Culturally, I don't have a
background in Yiddish
theater," he says. Teibele, in
its style, "is surreal; that fact
makes the play different.
Generally we go for more
realism in our plays!'
Mirjana Urosev, who plays
Teibele, agrees: "We're trying
to create a style like that of a
Chagall painting — a feeling
that the world's turned up-
side down, reality inside out.
We believe the audience will
see the truth of the message!'
And what is that truth?
"That one has to 'let go' unto
Mr. Parker joins his fellow
cast members in appreciation
of Mr. Singer's style. "His
writing is a lot more lyrical
than the usual, and the
translation from the Yiddish
is very true. Often today,
writers search for Mr.
Singer's kind of lyricism and
seldom achieve it!'
"For me, Singer's work is
magical, and I pray that will
come across;' says Ms. Urosev.
Though it encompasses
serious themes, the produc-
tion still contains a lot of
humor, she adds, as it deals
with "human comedy and wit
— the recognition of our own
Ms. Moyer and Mr. Ander-
son perceive no negative reac-
tion to their production. As
far as non-traditional casting
is concerned, "the play should
appeal to a broad-based, mix-
ed audience," Ms. Moyer
says. "But I think people who
come expecting to see a tradi-
tional approach, in terms of



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