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October 31, 2003 - Image 68

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-10-31

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Arts ig Life

Good (And Funny) Grief!

Humor writer Esther Blumenfeld debuts her first
play at Detroit Repertory Theatre.

BILL CARROLL
Special to the Jewish News

JOHN PATRICK SHANLEY

OCTOBER 22-NOVEMBER 23, 2003

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sther Blumenfeld is under-
standably excited — and a
bit nervous — about the pre-
miere of her first play, Here
and There, which debuts Thursday, Nov.
6, and runs through Dec. 31 at Detroit
Repertory Theatre.
The 194-seat theater is sold out for
the opener, mainly to Blumenfeld's rela-
tives and friends. They are joining her
from around the country to show their
support for the new playwright, who
narrowly escaped the Holocaust with
her family before World War II and
became an award-winning humorist in
America.
"Here and There is a 90-minute come-
dy; if no one laughs, it's a 15-minute
tragedy," Blumenfeld quips from her
home in Tucson, Ariz.
When her husband, Warren, died five
years ago at age 62 after a long illness,
she thought her writing career was over.
But "I'm pretty flexible," she says. "I
zigged when I could have zagged. My
life took a dramatic turn — literally.
And this play is the result."
Here and There is an unsentimental
story about love, decency and undy-
ing friendship, proving that humor is
a potent tool for coping with life —
and death.
The underlying question of the play:
Can grief be funny? The answer in this
case is that it can.
The plot unfolds as the recently
deceased Aaron, a teacher and a scientist
who loved to joke, comes back to haunt
his wife, Becca, a writer, who can be very
funny in her own right. The action cen-
ters around Becca's poignant and mostly
humorous attempts at keeping her head
out of what she calls the "pity pot."
"For people who like a play with
clever repartee that touches tender
nerves, Here and There should be a spe-
cial treat," says Director Bruce Milan, a
co-founder of DRT.
"There is Becca who is here, and
Aaron, who is there, plus Josh, their son
the actor, and two close friends, making
a lovable combination of intelligence,
wit, compassion and tenderness."
Blumenfeld says she's flattered that
Millan, an award-winning director,
believes her humor is universal.

And it helps to soothe Blumenfeld's
opening-night jitters to know that one
of the lead roles, Becca, will be played
by Amyre Makupson, an African-
American, who is well-known in the - -
Detroit area as the local Emmy-Award-
winning former television anchor-
woman at UPN-50.
"I haven't met Amyre yet, but I hear
she's a wonderful actress, just like many
other TV women around the country
who also are dramatic and comedic
actresses," says Blumenfeld, who'll also
attend the Nov. 7-8 performances.
Other members of the troupe —
DRT is renowned for its multiracial
casting — include John Forman, Jeff
Thomakos, Milfordean Luster and
Herman McCain.
Here and There is largely autobio-
graphical, Blumenfeld says; it dwells a
lot on her life as a widow.
`After my husband died, I even took
out books from the library on being a
widow, and my friends urged me to
write something about it. The play is
about functional people living in a time
of dysfunctional families. - I try to help
people who may have their own prob-
lems in this regard," she says. •
"The play also covers the universal
humor in Jewishness. I use several
Jewish expressions, and there's a refer-
ence to a bar mitzvah. The multiracial
casting is a big asset to the production.
The Repertory Theatre has a great repu-

Esther Blumenfeld: "The play is
about functional people living in a
time of dysfunctional fiimilies."

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