Theater Review 88.
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Enemies: a Love Story
By Isaac Bashevis Singer
Adapted by Ro'i Chen and Yevgeny Arye
Translated by Ro'i Chen
Directed by Yevgeny Arye
The two-level stage looms austere. The forestage is anchored by two old-fashioned telephone booths, one on each side. In the middle there is a grid. Torn newsprint litters the pavement. Nobody looks at, relates to or uses it, but it is the clue to the heart of this intense, compassionate and superlatively acted adaptation of Isaac Bashevis Singer's novel.
Who regards yesterday's newsprint? It's irrelevant flotsam, just like the human scraps that tread on it, torn scraps the Holocaust has irrevocably branded.
They are ghosts, says Shifrah Puah (Fira Kantor), ghosts looking for six million Jewish dead in the missing persons columns.
Shifrah is Masha's (Efrat Ben Tzur) mother. Masha is Herman Broder's (Sasha Demidov) mistress. Herman is married to Jadwiga (Natalia Manor), the illiterate Polish servant girl who saved his life when the Nazis came looking for him. He shuttles between the two women, managing to deceive Jadwiga pretty well until the resurrection of Tamara (Ruth Heilovsky), his first wife - thought murdered by the Nazis along with their children. The subsequent emotional clamor slowly crescendos and overwhelms Herman. He will never see his daughter, whom Jadwiga names Masha.
These are denatured people. The emotion they portray is residual, depicted in a series of swiftly changing pictures effected by panels moving across the stage, like the opening and closing of camera shutters. Behind these, the scenes enter and leave on moving platforms. It is distant and impersonal, and thereby more savagely wrenching. This Enemies is a shadow holocaust: overall pervasive, the trains thunder. And even though the second act requires pruning, Arye got this one right. Magnificent.