Aug ’08 Spotlight

AugCoverLowResTwo years ago, Diane Gilboa, the Artistic Director of North Carolina’s Theatre Or, bought us Hard Love, a challenging play by Israeli provocateur Motti Lerner. Now she’s back with OnStageIsrael, a festival of staged readings celebrating Israel’s 60th Anniversary.

“Curating the plays was difficult,” Diane told me. “I looked long and hard to find plays that in sum total created a vibrant, interesting picture of life in Israel today.” Here are brief synopses of the five she’s selected for us:

  • Apples from the Desert by Savyon Liebrecht—Cultures clash when a girl from a religious Sephardic family decides to join a kibbutz. (Romantic Comedy)
  • Conviction by Oren Neeman—An Israeli scholar researches the doomed relationship between a converted Spanish priest and his Jewish wife. (Historical Romance)
  • Masked by Ilan Hatsor—Three Palestinian brothers wrestle with conflicts between duty, family, and survival during the intifada. (Political Drama)
  • To Pay the Price by Peter Cohen—Story of Jonathan “Yoni” Netanyahu, killed rescuing hostages during the IDF’s 1976 raid on Entebbe Airport. (Biographical Drama)
  • Women’s Minyan by Naomi Ragen—Orthodox woman pleads for the right to see her children. (Fact-based Drama)

“Our Hard Love experience was phenomenal,” Diane said. “I’m thrilled that Victory Gardens invited us back. I would love for this to be an annual event.” OnStageIsraelHeader

The OnStageIsrael series runs from August 16 through August 24 at the Victory Gardens Theater on Lincoln Avenue. For more information, visit


Victory Gardens is also hosting the Hubris Productions revival of Harvey Fierstein’s play Torch Song Trilogy, which won two Tony Awards when it opened on Broadway in 1982. According to actress Susan Adler (cast in the role of an archetypical Jewish Mother): “The tragedy of Ma and Arnold is that they really love each other, but Arnold expects Ma to understand and accept his lifestyle because she’s his mother, while Ma wants Arnold to have the life she’s dreamed for him.”

“This play was way ahead of its time,” Susan told me. “I’d like to think that today Ma would be accepting of Arnold and proud of his accomplishments.”

Torch Song Trilogy runs from July 31 through September 7. To order tickets for TST and/or any of the Theatre Or performances, call the VG Box Office at (773) 871-3000 or visit


They may not have the “big buzz” of multiplex movies, but here are some small gems opening in local art houses this month:

  • Elegy—Ben Kingsley stars as “David Kepesh” in an adaptation of Philip Roth’s 2001 novel The Dying Animal. After a lifetime of serial seductions, Kepesh becomes obsessed with a beautiful young Cuban woman (Penelope Cruz). Elegant, beautifully-composed meditation on human mortality from Spanish director Isabel Coixet. (Opens August 8 in Evanston.)
  • Sixty Six—Pity poor “Bernie” (Gregg Sulkin); he’s just learned that his Bar Mitzvah is scheduled on the same day as the World Cup Final! Weeks out it can’t possibly matter but of course it does, and once England wins the semi-finals, Bernie’s mother “Esther” (Helena Bonham Carter) must field call after hilarious call from relatives with transparent excuses. Director Paul Weiland has made “a true-ish story” that will charm the whole mishpokhe. (Opens August 22 at the AMC in Northbrook and the Pipers Alley in Old Town.)
  • Two Lives Plus One—“Eliane” (Emmanuelle Devos) lives in two worlds. On the surface she’s a proper Parisian housewife devoted to family and friends. But every time she goes to the cemetery to visit her father’s grave, he shares new stories about his Polish shtetl. So one day she buys a laptop, and suddenly Eliane is scheduling meetings with potential publishers. (Opens August 29 at the Gene Siskel Film Center in the Chicago Loop.)

Reviews of all of these films can be found on the Beyond Cacophony page of my website:


The Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest is also showing Shay Kanot‘s romantic comedy Colombian Love as co-host of Cinema/Chicago’s International Summer Screenings Program at the Chicago Cultural Center. This is one night only (Wednesday August 6) beginning at 6:30 PM. Admission to CCC screenings is free but space is limited, so arrive early if you want to get a seat. For more information, visit the Cinema/Chicago website:


Joan Levin, who started the Yiddish film series at KAM-Isaiah in Hyde Park, has now organized a new series at Skokie Library under the auspices of Chicago YIVO. Unfortunately Chicago YIVO programs always begin at 12:15 PM, so most of us won’t be able to go, but the good news is that all four films are also on DVD.

Three were directed by Joseph Green, and I can happily recommend two of them: Yiddle With His Fiddle (Yidl Mitn Fidl), a comedy from 1936, and A Letter from Mother (A Brivele der Mamen), a melodrama from 1939. The Vow (Tkies Kaf), Henryk Szabo’s mystical romance from 1937, completes the series.

BriveleMy favorite is Brivele, starring Lucy Gehrman as “Dobrish Berdichevski.” Unable to find work, Dobrish’s beloved husband leaves Ukraine and heads to America, leaving her to raise their three children under increasingly difficult circumstances. Her son is drafted to fight in WWI, her daughter is caught up in the Russian Revolution, and her baby, sent off to his father, simply disappears.

Through it all, Dobrish remains resourceful, working with neighbors and friends to survive as best she can, and eventually making her own way to New York under the auspices of HAIS (the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society). Brivele opened in New York two weeks after the Nazis invaded Poland, quickly becoming one of the most financially successful Yiddish films ever made, but there is nothing dated about it; the performances ring true and the story line, while telling a great deal about its time, resonates well in our own.

For more information about the Skokie Library screenings, visit Chicago YIVO’s website: All four DVDs can be purchased from Ergo Media ( You can also rent the two Molly Picon DVDs (Mamele and Yidl Mitn Fidl) from Netflix:


Tziviah bat Yisroel v’Hudah (Jan Lisa Huttner) is the managing editor of Films for Two: The Online Guide for Busy Couples ( Send comments and/or suggestions for future columns to

Previous Post Next Post