Friday, December 7, 2012

West Boca Theatre Company: The Women's Minyan (reviews)

The West Boca Theatre Company opened its production of The Women's Minyan on November 28, 2012
Author Naomi Ragen’s only play, this is the story of a respected Rabbi’s wife in the patriarchal ultra-Orthodox community of Jerusalem. After years of abuse by her husband, she breaks her silence only to find herself excommunicated and forcibly separated from her twelve children. She convenes a Minyan (a quorum) of women asking them to decide her worthiness to be reunited with her children.
Shari Upbin directed a cast that included Jamie Libbert-Smith, Blanca Bassion, Mary Stucchi, Margo Gllert, Renee Roggoff, Merry Jo Cortada, Clelilia Patrizio, Gail Byer, Fern Katz, and Elli Murray.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Naomi Ragen’s Women’s Minyan is a tough play to watch... the denigrating words aimed by women at one of their own earn gasps, moans or derisive muttering from the audience at Boca Raton’s Levis Jewish Community Center.

Certainly, the playwright, producer Myrna Loman and director Shari Upbin aren’t suggesting that what happens to Chana Sheinhoff... is a good or just thing. But the truth is that such condemnation, shunning and adherence to rabbinical rulings happens: Women’s Minyan is based on a real case.
Threading subtle, mournful live music through the scenes, Upbin gets solid performances from her large cast, though Ragen doesn’t make each performer’s journey an easy one. Rogoff and Cortada commit fully to women who seem unfeelingly cruel, even reprehensible. Katz and especially Byer provide bits of comic relief, but at a certain point in the darkening story, laughter becomes inappropriate.

Dramatically, what’s most challenging about Women’s Minyan is that Chana’s second-act revelations are things the audience sees coming from the get-go. Adina has a secret too, and when she shares it, you think, “Well, of course.” That’s not to say that Chana’s marital experiences aren’t profoundly disturbing. They are. But as Women’s Minyan demonstrates, cruelty takes many forms. And sometimes it flows from the similarly oppressed.
"SFGN Staff" wrote for SFGN:
I admit I didn’t think I’d like it. A play about the aftermath of a divorce in an ultra-orthodox Jewish family in Israel didn’t sound very appealing.

Turns out I was wrong. I loved it. I laughed. I cried. I was captivated from start to finish.

Each of the ten actresses were believable and moving. Beyond the actual performance, the play was a sincere look into the lives of ultra-orthodox Jewish women – their roles in society and their family.
While the entire cast did a spectacular job, and I felt empathy for all of their individual struggles, it was Chana’s sister-in-law Adina Sheinhoff (Clelia Patrizion) that brought me to tears during the second half of the play. I believed her, I felt her pain, and was so moved by her performance.
The Women's Minyan plays at the West Boca Theatre Company through December 9, 2012.

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