A Shayna Madel – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

A tear stained parting will years later culminate in a painful struggle to reconnect in Barbara Lebow’s beautifully haunting tale “A Shayna Maidel” being sensitively brought to life at West Hartford’s Playhouse on Park until Sunday, November 17. Here is a family torn by a war that enters uninvited into their home in Poland when the Nazis invade. Only the papa and the younger daughter escape to America while illness prevents the mama and elder daughter from the path to freedom.

Now the war is over and the mother has died in the concentration camps, as have a long list of other family members, tragically lost to the Holocaust. The remaining daughter, a fragile yet courageous Lusia, expressively portrayed by Katherine Schmidt, has just arrived on her Americanized sister Rose’s doorstep. The two have little memories of each other and now come from different worlds. Rose is progressive and modern, and a little put off by being commanded by her stoic father, a stern Mitch Greenberg, to take in the “stranger” and make her feel welcome.

The father has some guilt that he was never able to rescue his wife and daughter and now he wants to make amends by lavishing Lusia with warmth and kosher food and all the comforts she has been denied by fate.

For her part Rose, an affectionate Laura Sudduth, is a little overwhelmed by the task but ready to do all she can for the sibling she does not even remember. A series of dreams or memories punctuate the story, revealing much that occurred in the past and foreshadowing much that is anticipated in the future.

In those fleeting scenes we are privileged to meet Mama, a caring Krista Lucas, and Hanna, a sweet friend of Lusia’s, Julia Tolchin, as well as Lusia’s love Duvid, a much desired Alex Rafala. Their stories weave a complex tapestry of the war and the tolls it takes as well as the dreams, hopes and promises that allow us to rise to face another day. Dawn Loveland Navarro directs this heartfelt drama of family and faith, conflict and commitment, being produced in partnership with the Jewish Foundation of Greater Hartford and the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford.

For tickets ($27.50-40), call the Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Avenue, West Hartford at 860-523-5900, ext.10 or online at playhouseonpark.org. Performances are Tuesday at 2 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. followed by a talk back with the cast.

Please consider making a donation of like- new coats, sweaters, gloves, scarves and boots to Tara’s Closet for people of all ages.

Come meet two shayna maidels, both “pretty girls,” who reconnect and reestablish a family out of the remnants of a lost moment in history.