A Fulfilling Opening – Amid Conflicted Feelings in Certain Circles

We’ve got a trio of thoroughbreds on this show called MIKVEH (although I fear there’s nothing appropriate about horse metaphors in a ritual bath play) and our three veteran leads swing for the fences and then leap gracefully over them (oy, from baseball to equestrian metaphors in the same sentence – that’s what you get for blogging at 2 AM) in an overall performance to be marveled at. There are so many moving pieces to MIKVEH–so many contributions and plot lines and characters and assets on this show–but the real theatrical event isn’t the swimming pool; isn’t the glimpses of nudity; isn’t the mastery of haluchik arcania; it’s amazing actors sinking their teeth into confrontations of size and scope that leave one fearful and exhilarated. This beautifully designed show is lit to within an inch of electrifying the whole bloody vessel. It’s a production to be proud of; to be moved by; to revel in the tears streaming down our faces as the women on stage both triumph and experience new trauma as they face down a myriad of impingements.

But even in acknowledging the towering performances of Lise Bruneau, Sarah Marshall, and Kim Schraf, and indeed an entire ensemble clicking on all cylinders under Shirley Serotsky’s masterly direction, there’s still a vocal minority in our audience who find Hadar’s play to be too negative a depiction of orthodox jewish life; that no character is sufficiently positive in her living out of a committed Jewish life. The play exposes warts and wounds in a closed community and demands that the rug be lifted; the door be opened; that a movement of redress come to preserve the holy traditions while rooting out criminal human behavior too often unaddressed.

The hope of the play–its rounded message regarding Israel and all realms of Jewish life–is that change can happen from within the community; that we have the power and the ability to heal and improve ourselves, and woe to us if we take our eyes off of those who are suffering right under our noses.
For even in the midst of moral triumph (as the end of Mikveh shows), we still still uncomfortably close to new tragedy.

It’s late after opening night, but I am satisfied, happy and fulfilled with our journey through this land of MIKVEH. More specific comments to come. Suffice to say, there is pleasure in this painful portrait we’re presenting on our stage. But there is also lingering pain…