This from Council Vice Chair, Stephen Stern (you’ll remember him from our PANGS OF THE MESSIAH programming and posts — Stephen now runs the Dialogues Program at the DCJCC, with some amazing programs coming up)
In the spirit of our group of readers, I just want to share a few impressions from seeing the SECOND night staging/reading of Rabbi Sam. I had had absolutely no experience of the text or hearing it before I attended. – Pre-show and in the discussion I heard that the first act on the first night was much too long and did not well set up the dramatic arc of the play and pay-off in the second act, despite an often brilliant mish-mash of characters and characterization. In the performance I saw (the first act was still much too long) but the dramatic journey of the play and the journey of its main character was beautifully set up and working (Marc Fisher and others who had seen it both nights reported on that extraordinary progress with a few hours of work between performance).
– I loved what this show is doing, I think it’s very relevant for us, many questions and decisions on balancing of characters (and maybe even eliminating one or two) and tone need to be made – but the shape and power is there.- It works on several important levels, it’s very funny, the characters in their confrontations over organizational politics are hilarious and deeply poignant. It’s very recognizable for any non-profit or group of adults organizing anything, not just a synagogue, but it deepens from there into hard-edged personal agendas at stake, and the driving force of the main character’s real passion to re-invigorate American Judaism and the lives in his new community, it soars to the deepest spiritual levels of 3000 years of community-building and seeking and fighting with God and the ocean of eternity – all with a wonderful playful sense of the ridiculous matched to the ineffable/inexplicable. In the discussion following , I was very taken by many comments, e.g. from a very secular (dare I say anti-religious) point of view or from other religions and institutional parallels – people responded to the “inside baseball” fact that it was about Judaism, with references to universal quests and longings – a re-look at what evangelicalism and skepticism can mean, among other things. Micro and meta-politics. It’s very Jewish yet has extraordinary inclusiveness potential
– At the end, I briefly told Ari, let’s go beyond incubation and hatch this. (My only demurral in terms of a main stage show in a season – aside from balance of the season questions of course – is that it is a one man show – but with the next rounds of editing shaping and balancing, I have no doubt that the performance will be brilliant. Bravo to writer, director, and performer).
– it’s marketable to synagogues, the wider Jewish institutional community and Jewish outreach groups, and I think to non-Jews and all kinds of people in our area in whom spiritual and/or organizational journeys are subjects for deep reflection or deep skepticism, leavened by hilarious and profoundly poignant encounters of the characters through their channeler, Charlie Varon.
P.S. – Ari asked about title Is simple Rabbi Sam enough? Short and sweet, open to all? Maybe. The play is about Rabbi Sam’s journey. (That’s NOT what I’m suggesting as a title) – but it might be strengthened with a modifying conditioner/adjectiveCOMMENTS FROM OTHERS? FEEL FREE TO SHARE!