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November 26, 2004 - Image 45

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-11-26

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A Play With A Soul

JET mounts adaptation of S. Ansky's "The Dybbuk" by British actor-writer Bruce Meyers.

Special to the Jewish News


rriving at the Jewish Ensemble Theatre just
in time for the holiday season is a play with
something for audiences of all beliefs.
A haunting tale of Jewish mysticism and tran-
scendental love, British actor-
writer Bruce Myers' The
Dybbuk for Two People, JET's
second production of the
2004-2005 season, runs Dec.
1-Tan. 2 at the Aaron DeRoy
Theater in the Jewish
Community Center in West
Written originally in
Yiddish by Jewish playwright
S. Ansky in 1919, The
Dybbuk (an evil spirit, often
',,, to be the soul of a
dead person, that wanders the
earth looking for a living
body to inhabit) has under-
gone more than 20 adapta-
tions in the past 85 years;
Myers' version was first per-
formed in London in 1982.
At JET, Jewish actor Loren
Bass (Chanon) and actress
Shelly Gaza (Leah) play two
doomed lovers and 12 other
roles. Director Gillian Eaton
has added a third person to
the cast, actor/musician Daniel
Kahn (son of Marsha and David
Kahn of Farmington Hills), who
created a score for the production.
Bass, a former Detroiter who has
returned to the area to once again
make Michigan his home base (see
"Coming Home," page 53, in the Oct. 8
issue of the J/V), and Gaza, who lives in
Denver, Colo., appeared in JET's controversial
production of Dirty Story (he played a Palestinian)
last year, and Gaza was in JET's Boy Meets Girl.
They both have received Wilde awards for out-
standing dramatic acting, and both have been in
productions at Meadow Brook (Bass just finished
up there in Art) and Hilberry theaters and recent
Shakespearean festivals.
"The Dybbuk has everything," said JET Artistic
Director Evelyn Orbach. "It's a drama about life,
death, faith, undying love, the supernatural, the
Sabbath, magic and mysticism, and the spiritual

in it, so I wrote an adaptation allowing the two
main actors to play a total of 14 characters," he
explained from his home in Paris.
Myers, 62, is married to an Arab woman, and
they have two children "being raised in the Jewish
and Christian faiths and in British and French
nationalities," he points out. A member of the
Royal Shakespeare Theater, he works
mainly as an actor in Paris under
famed British director Peter
"Myers must have had our
193-seat JET theater in mind
when he adapted the play,
keeping it to two actors play-
ing all of those roles, because,
of course, we have confined
pace," said Eaton.
She has been directing for
30 years, including several
shows for JET over the past
four years. "The Dybbuk really
appeals to me because it pro-
vides plenty of directorial free-
dom. Any audience should
love it, whether they celebrate
Chanukah or Christmas, as it
,has something for everyone,"
says the director.
Set in a typical Yiddish
shtetl in Poland in the 19th
_century, The Dybbuk tells the
.story of two ill-fated lovers,
Chanon, a penniless but
devout student of Jewish mys-
ticism, and Leah, the young
woman he loves. Betrothed
unknowingly to each other
since birth, they are denied
their fate when Leah's father
breaks the marriage contract
Loren Bass and Shelly Gaza play doomed lovers and 12 other roles in
and offers his daughter to a
Bruce Myers' "The Dybbuk for Two People."
richer man.
The news is fatal to Chanon,
prolonged prayer and
fasting. His soul becomes an evil spirit, or dybbuk,
ferent actors, because he died shortly before its
which enters Leah's body in an attempt to gain pos-
1920 premiere in Vilna, Lithuania. A year later, it
session of her love for eternity.
was performed by the Moscow Art Theatre and,
The deeply pious Chasidic rabbis in town then
translated into English, it since has been produced
to exorcise the dybbuk from Leah so she and
throughout the world.
new, wealthy fiance can get married. She must
Myers, the son of an Orthodox Jewish father,
make the choice between marriage to a man for
became interested in the play when he performed it
whom she feels nothing or an unworldly union
at the Yiddish Theater Festival in France in 1980.
"The Dybbuk appealed to my Jewish background,
and I took a liking to it right away, but I got bored
A PLAY WITH A Soul, on page 48

bond between the two lovers."
Ansky created the play from a number of Jewish
myths, folktales and legends he gathered during his
career as a scholar of Chasidic literature. It describes
a time and culture in history when people believed
good and bad spirits infiltrated their everyday lives.
Ansky never had a chance to see the play, originally




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