From Door to Door | New Jewish Theater

Michelle Hand, as the youngest, Deborah, both in appearance and demeanor embodied the lessening effect of history on subsequent generations, as fear lifts and lightness takes its place, and the struggle to find a balance between the past and the future grows more removed.

 

By James Sherman
Directed by Edward Coffield

Just in time for Mother’s Day, From Door to Door follows the lives of three generations of Jewish women as the family moves from impoverished immigrant status to that of successful, wealthy Jewish-Americans. Through portraying the humorous, loving, demanding, affectionate interactions between mothers and daughters and grandmother and granddaughter, the play looks at what it means to be raised Jewish, and what it means to love those closest to, and most like, ourselves.

Traits and attitudes are passed down, mutating and shifting as the years go by. The immigrant mother’s warning to her daughter, Mary, “Don’t go to any meetings!” becomes Mary’s declaration of “I don’t go to meetings,” which she makes to her daughter, Deborah, who doesn’t seem to have strong feelings one way or the other about meetings.

The passing years are marked by costume changes, bits of song by women artists, and a shifting table, which is moved not by a stagehand, but by the actors. While the effect of having actors move the table is so subtle as to almost escape notice, the choice works extremely well. While other characters (husbands and brothers) are mentioned in the dialogue, none appear, and never having anyone else on stage highlights the sense that only these three women matter, at least in the context of the play. And besides, as my companion pointed out, “Women do move the furniture.”

Donna Weinsting is wonderful as the immigrant Bessie, giving her daughter old-world advice, frightening her granddaughter, and offering the unexpected laugh or moment of truth, just enough to pull perceptions of her character back from the brink dislike. Michele Burdette Elmore was well cast as Bessie’s daughter, and was especially notable when playing her child self. Michelle Hand, as the youngest, Deborah, both in appearance and demeanor embodied the lessening effect of history on subsequent generations, as fear lifts and lightness takes its place, and the struggle to find a balance between the past and the future grows more removed.

Edward Coffield’s direction used the space well, positioning the actors so that the simple set became the different rooms of each scene, and no character was out of sight too long.

Together, Weinsting, Elmore, and Hand create a completely believable family on the stage. The effect of the production on the audience seemed magnetic, with audience members joining in during a Yiddish song and smiling compulsively when the show was over.

The New Jewish Theater presents James Sherman’s From Door to Door through May 21, 2006, at the Sarah and Abraham Wolfson Studio Theatre in the Jewish Community Center (#2 Millstone Campus Dr., Creve Couer). Showtimes are 8 p.m. Wed., Thurs., and Sat., and 2 & 7:30 p.m. Sun. Tickets range from $20–24; group prices available. Reservations can be made by calling 314-442-3283.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply