Sept ’10 Spotlight

Chicago Dramatists on West Chicago Avenue kicks off its 32nd season with a brand new play called The Invasion of Skokie, which opened on Sept 2. I haven’t seen it yet, but playwright Steven Peterson gave me special permission to read his script and I was impressed enough to order tickets.

Set in June 1978 (right before, during, and after the infamous Neo-Nazi demonstration), Invasion finds members of the Kaplan family in a state of transition. Husband “Morry” still commutes south every day to his store in Lawndale, but wife “Sylvia” is a successful suburban realtor, and daughter “Debbie” is a corporate lawyer in the Loop. Simmering domestic tensions erupt when Sylvia and Debbie learn that Morry not only intends to protest the demonstration, but has acquired a rifle. Nothing Debbie says about First Amendment rights matter; Morry knows the marchers have deliberately chosen Skokie because of its large Jewish population, and he cannot be appeased.

This is history, well-worth knowing for its own sake, but good theater isn’t merely a didactic exercise. The characters are all well-developed, interesting individuals, and their dialogue gives voice to a specific cultural moment in which political macrocosm and personal microcosm collide on multiple levels.

The Invasion of Skokie runs through Oct 10. To order tickets call the box office at (312) 633-0630, or visit www.ChicagoDramatists.org.

Visiting authors
Elizabeth Rosner will be arriving from Berkeley soon to promote her new novel Blue Nude at various local venues. The “nude” in the title is an Israeli woman named “Merav” who moves to California after losing her childhood friend “Yossi” in a terrorist attack.

Once an art student, Merav now makes her living as a model, a profession which allows her to hide her thoughts even as she exposes her body. While others struggle to capture her physical beauty with charcoal and paint, Merav retreats deep into her own memories and emotions. And as she relaxes into pose after pose, I was entranced, as Rosner’s reader, by my window on Merav’s poetically-evoked inner world.

According to her website, Rosner has been active in the “Acts of Reconciliation” project uniting the descendants of Holocaust survivors and the descendants of German Nazi Party members. (Her father, born in Hamburg, was sent to Buchenwald, while her mother, born in Vilna, hid in Polish forests.) Her first novel, The Speed of Light, was a Hadassah National Book Club selection in 2003.

To find dates and times for all local appearances (including St. Charles and Woodstock as well as Chicago Loop), visit: www.ElizabethRosner.com.

New films
Israeli filmmaker Samuel Maoz’s first feature Lebanon won a slew of well-deserved technical awards from the Israel Film Academy last year including Art Direction, Cinematography and Sound Design. A harrowing account of Israel’s 1982 invasion, Lebanon is set completely inside the sweat and steam of a battle tank. Much like Saving Private Ryan, Lebanon succeeds in placing us directly in the line of fire (somewhere most of us have never been), but fails to create fully convincing characters. And if you have already seen Joseph Cedar’s Oscar-nominated film Beaufort (which has some of the same actors), then this will add to the slightly stale feeling. Lebanon opens locally on Aug. 27 at Music Box Theatre on Southport and Landmark Renaissance Place Cinema in Highland Park.

Starting a New Year…
The Jewish Channel is now available to most Metro Chicago cable customers on On Demand, and I strongly encourage you to begin 5771 with a trial subscription. The five program categories are American-World Jewry, Feature Films, History/Remembrance, Israel, and TJC Original Series. Although I haven’t reviewed everything myself yet, I found the most recent, 20-minute “Weekly News” program (in TJC Original Series) quite informative, and the Feature Film category includes several titles shown here as part of our annual Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema. For more information, visit: www.tjctv.com.

L’Shannah Tovah!

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