Aired on KSDS-FM on 12/9/16
RUN DATES: 11/23/16 – 12/18/16
VENUE: San Diego Repertory Theatre
Would you like to see an exorcism? How about the re-enactment of a spooky ancient folk tale? A wedding toast by a drunk uncle? A tearful confession and redemption?
Sounds like a lot for one evening, doesn’t it? It’s a lot for one play – and really a lot for one person.
Todd Salovey, associate artistic director of the San Diego Repertory Theatre, has written and directed a world premiere, “The Dybbuk for Hannah and Sam’s Wedding,” which intertwines a modern marital reception with a beloved Kabbalistic ghost story.
“The Dybbuk,” S. Ansky’s haunting tale of a love that extends beyond the grave, is set in a shtetl of the 1860s. This new play takes place in the 1960s, with all the comic shtick and wedding schmaltz of the time.
The set makes imaginative use of the Lyceum space, and there’s table seating for the guests, as tipsy, tuxedoed Uncle Jerry schmoozes with the audience, and then starts his 80-minute toast, which uses the Dybbuk, a restless soul that, in this case, inhabits a young bride’s body, as a morality tale about the importance of not breaking a vow, a not-so-comfortable fit with a wedding speech.
At the very end, we learn that Uncle Jerry has his own demon to exorcise. But by that time, we have pretty much lost interest in his story.
And every time we get totally immersed in the magic and mysticism of the Dybbuk tale, the spell is broken by a lame attempt at contemporary humor. This pulls us out of the drama and diminishes our emotional response to the material.
One of the best parts of this well-intentioned effort is watching Ron Campbell play some 18 roles, shifting characters instantaneously. He’s especially effective in the shy, awkward moment when the lovers are first mutually smitten. Also mesmerizing are the musical creations of klezmer-master and fiddler extraordinaire Yale Strom, played with expert accordionist Mark Danisovsky and bassist Tim McNalley.
If Jewish weddings are your thing, go in good health. The champagne is cheap – and so are some of the laughs. But the performances are priceless.
©2016 PAT LAUNER, San Diego Theater Reviews