Pat Launer, Center Stage on KSDS JAZZ88
April 18, 2014
For sheer infotainment value, a fascinating mix of history and personal drama, you can’t beat “Mandate Memories,” the world premiere at North Coast Repertory Theatre.
The two-hander reunites London-based playwright Lionel Goldstein and director David Ellenstein, who worked together at North Coast on the internationally produced “Halpern and Johnson.” Lately, they’ve been tweaking “Mandate Memories,” and though it can still use some trimming of historical background data, it’s a moving, touching pas de deux .
In the summer of 2009, a middle-aged English homemaker is tending her beloved garden when a visitor arrives with a letter written, during Israel’s war for independence 60 years ago, by the father she never met. The elderly Froelich dances around her many questions, persistently cryptic and enigmatic. An Austrian-born Israeli, a survivor of Bergen-Belsen and a freedom-fighter in Palestine, he doles out information slowly, gradually preparing her for the shocking revelation of his long-time connection to her life.
The British were intimately involved in the formation of the state of Israel, in many not-so-savory ways, he tells her. She thinks her father, a Captain, was killed by Jewish terrorists – which is true, but not the way she was led to believe.
The historical elements of Goldstein’s tale are factual, especially the hair-raising international game of ‘chicken’ played with soldiers’ lives.
The production is lovely; the beautifully detailed set is elegantly lit. Ellenstein’s sensitive direction allows emotional moments to breathe, and teases all the nuance from these disparate characters, marvelously inhabited by L.A. actor Apollo Dukakis and local favorite Rosina Reynolds. Dukakis’ Froelich is intriguing, a tortured man who has seen – and participated in – more than his share of horrors. Reynolds is equally excellent as the wary, skeptical Jane Sterling who, like the story, gradually unfolds. Their arguments over the current Israel-Palestine conflict will pique your social and intellectual interest. Their personal journey will touch your heart.
“Mandate Memories” runs through April 27, at the San Diego Repertory Theatre in Horton Plaza.
©2014 PAT LAUNER