Lookingglass Theatre Company on North Michigan Avenue closes its 2011 season with a Tony Award for Excellence in Regional Theater (presented in New York on June 12) and a lovely new premiere production called The Last Act of Lilka Kadison.
An elderly American woman is haunted by a ghost from her Polish past. Lilka, the oldest girl in a large religious family, is running errands in the marketplace one day when she happens on a Jewish-style “Punch and Judy” show. Captivated by the handsome puppeteer, she agrees to clandestine meetings with him, but the lovers are in the wrong place at the wrong time: sirens wail, bombs fall, the Nazis invade, and they are forcibly separated. Decades later, long after young Lilka Kadison escaped from Europe and started life anew as Lilith Fisher, Ben Ari Adler invades her home, filling her final days with bittersweet reverie.
A large team of five playwrights treads lightly on heavy material, keeping their Holocaust-specific references to a bare minimum. As Yiddish classics like Rozhinkes mit Mandlen play in the background, Ben (Chance Bone) acts out a whimsical riff on a traditional tale from Chelm, and then Lilka (Nora Fiffer) joins him in creating a charming new version of the Biblical romance between King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.
Although the California framing story—in which Lilith (Marilyn Dodds Frank) engages in a battle of wills with her homecare aide Menelik (Usman Ally)—needs more work, the core is a luminous homage to Jewish narrative. The true star of the show is the clever toy theater-in-a-box (designed by Tracy Otwell) which reminds us that the human imagination can conjure marvelous “special effects” from the simplest sources.
The Last Act of Lilka Kadison closes on July 24. Eight prominent local organizations are listed as “Community Partners” for this production, and several of them (including Spertus Institute and the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center) are sponsoring auxiliary programs. To order tickets for a performance, call the Box Office at (312) 337-0665or visit: http://lookingglasstheatre.org. The website also has a complete list of lectures and panel discussions.
Free Summer Films
The Alliance of Latinos and Jews and the Chicago YIVO Society are co-sponsoring two screenings of Alejandro Springall’s film My Mexican Shivah. The first one is Wednesday, July 6 at 12:15 p.m. at Skokie Public Library; the second one is Thursday, July 7 at 6 p.m. at Harold Washington Library Center on State Street. Shivah, “an artful blend of farce and philosophy,”made its local debut at 2008’s Chicago Latino Film Festival where it won an Audience Choice Award in the Feature Film category. For more details, visit: www.ChicagoYivoBlog.com.
The Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest and Cinema/Chicago are co-sponsoring two screenings of Ayelet Menahemi’s film Noodle. The first one is Wednesday, July 27 at 6:30 p.m., the second one is Saturday, July 30 at 2 p.m., and both screenings are at the Chicago Cultural Center (Michigan and Randolph). Noodle, nominated for ten Ophir Awards by the Israel Film Academy in 2007, was on my “Highly Recommended” list when it made its local debut the next year at our Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema. For more details, visit: www.CinemaChicago.org.
All four screenings are free and open to the public, but space is limited so plan to arrive early if you want a good seat. Read full reviews of both films on my Blog: www.SecondCityTzivi.com.
An SRO crowd, including consular representatives from Turkey and Israel, welcomed Sophie Bejarano de Goldberg to the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen on May 25. Goldberg’s lecture, The Sephardic Jews of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, was based on over one hundred interviews with Jews who emigrated from the Ottoman Empire between 1880 and 1920.
Goldberg spoke movingly about her grandmother’s memories of sailing alone from Turkey at age eighteen. Her grandfather (a family friend already in Mexico) proposed after an exchange of photos and they married on the boat. “Otherwise,” said Goldberg, “the Mexican authorities would not allow her to disembark.”
Goldberg’s book Ayer, Oy y Manyana, PresenciaSefardi en Mexico (co-authored with Rosalynda Perez de Cohen and Simonette Levy de Behar) has not be translated into English yet, but Goldberg hopes to make it available to us in time for an exhibit on Jewish contributions to Mexican culture that NMMA is planning for 2014. Meanwhile, all of Goldberg’s interviews have all been converted to CD so that “a new generation can hear the sound of the Ladino language.”
To read more, visit: http://www.NationalMuseumOfMexicanArt.org.
Jan Lisa Huttner (Tzivi) is an award-winning Chicago critic/columnist. Visit Jan’s Blog, www.SecondCityTzivi.com, for a complete online archive of all JUF News columns plus additional interviews and reviews. Send comments and/or suggestions for future columns to Tzivi@msn.com.