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The Company of Talent

Dramashop Tells a Tale of Struggle, Hope, and Faith

By Allison Lewis

Staff Writer

The Company of Angels


Kresge Little Theatre

Feb. 5-7, 12-14, 8 p.m.

By Alan Brody

Directed by Michael Ouellette

Starring Masha Kamenetska ’05, Max Goldman ’04, and Aaron Moronez ’04

The Company of Angels” is a combination of wonderful writing and acting. The jokes are well-written and well-delivered. The actors were completely believable, and spoke their lines, for the most part, flawlessly, completely in character, and with perfect timing. Even when the actors couldn’t dance or sing well, they made us believe they could.

The actors had talent, yes, but they also had Alan Brody’s writing. He learned the story of Rita Karpinovicz, once a member of the Official Theater of the Survivors of the Holocaust, took her story to heart, and turned it into a play, which he said, “wrote itself.” The result is not just a remembrance of what happened after the Holocaust. It’s a kind of a celebration, a party. A testament of good’s triumph over evil.

“The Company of Angels” is a story about Jews surviving the Holocaust after the war. Several survivors in Poland begin a Yiddish theater company and tour the Jewish camps in order to bring hope to their displaced people. Through this experience, they overcome some of their own fears, anger, and despair brought forth by the Holocaust. They move on with their lives, and learn to have faith again. Through it all, they never forget who they are and where they came from.

The theater troupe is made up of eight lovable cast members, individualized by their own flaws and quirks: the dancers, Max Silver (Amado Dehoyos ’04) and Eleazer Goldstein (Kenneth Roraback ’06) are charming with their bowties, coattails, and dreams of one day performing Vaudeville in America. The piano player, Chaim Marx (Jonathan Wolfe G) plays happy melodies despite his despair, and, in the end, learns to love more than his music.

Duna Gordner (Virginia Corless ’05) claims no emotion, but definitely knows how to scream. Esther Mendel (Helen McCreery ’06) is naive and young, but overcomes her lack of acting skills.

Headstrong Rochel Kremer (Masha Kamenetska ’05) is passionate and demanding, the most complex and beautiful character. The director of the Company, Leib Arnovsky (Max Goldman ’04) is the leader of the group. The producer, Mordecai Solomon (Aaron Moronez ’04) is suave and dangerously secretive.

We see these characters go about their lives, and also, perform their plays. In this sense, we are watching plays within a play, as the characters go in and out of the performances on their tour. This set-up calls for intense, fast-moving stage action, and quick changes, keeping it constantly interesting for the audience.

A couple of backdrops, some chairs, a desk when needed, and a piano are all the props used. Still, the play was interesting and fun to watch. The spare setting brought more attention to the actors, who performed with emotion and all the right movements. They were funny, then sweet, then sad, and then angry. They followed heart-wrenching, screaming dialogue with light jokes, during which some of the most important ideas are revealed. When Duna tells us that her son died in the Holocaust, Esther walks in offering iced tea.

In addition to the great dialogue, some of the most powerful moments came in song. At the end of the first act, the entire cast sang together a Yiddish song of hope. Arnovsky sang in English, for effect and so the audience could understand; behind him, the other characters sang in Yiddish.

The play was obviously well-rehearsed, with almost flawless set changes. Some moments were more dramatic than others, but each scene had its rightful place in the story, and brought more meaning to the overall theme. There was no unnecessary filler, no fluff. What was left was credible, brilliant, and fun.

In the end, the Jews are given a home in Palestine, and without a group to perform for, the members of the troupe are forced to split up. They are given the chance to begin their lives again. Some go to Palestine, some go to America.

We are left hoping that the dancing pair, Max and Eleazer, finally make it to Vaudeville; that Duna might have another son; that Rochel and Mordecai, lovers, will be happy together. Our hope for them makes “The Company of Angels” more than just another Dramashop production. We are invested in the story. We care for the characters. And just like them, we will not easily forget.