A Shayna Maidel
A Shayna Maidel begins with with birth of a child during a pogrom in 19th-century Poland. Someone observes that the baby, named Mordechai, already knows not to cry—a survival instinct that the rest of the play interrogates. Barbara Lebow’s 1984 drama, which deals with transgenerational conflict in the aftermath of the Holocaust, is keenly aware of how survival instincts beget survivors’ guilt, sometimes with reason.
Set mostly in 1946, the play revolves around Mordechai’s daughters, Luisa (Emily Berman) and Rose (Bri Sudia). The hard-charging Mordechai (played by Charles Stransky) escaped Poland with Rose when she was very young, leaving Luisa behind with her mother (Carin Schapiro Silkaitis). After the war, the sisters are reunited by their father in New York City. When Luisa arrives early, she and Rose and are left to each other’s devices. They work to overcome the language barrier between them, as Rose fumbles to make her long-lost sister feel welcome and Luisa tries to cobble her life back together. Rose has no memories of life in Poland, but Luisa is haunted by them; she continually slips into vivid recollections—bordering on hallucinations— from her past, including memories of her mother, her friend Hanna (Sarah Wisterman) and the love of her life, Duvid (Alex Stein).
It is these moments in the play, when Luisa’s mind is transported back through time, that best illustrate the limitations of Vanessa Stalling’s generally solid revival. They are accompanied by the soun