THE BASICS: ROSE, a play by Martin Sherman, reprised by Jewish Repertory Theatre from their seventh season, directed by Saul Elkin, starring Tina Rausa opened on February 1 and runs through the 25th, Thursdays at 7:30, Saturdays at 4 and 8, and Sundays at 2 at The Maxine and Robert Seller Theatre, 2640 North Forest Road, Getzville (688-4114 x391). www.jewishrepertorytheatre.com Plenty of parking at the Jewish Community Center which is really about 20 minutes from downtown. Candy, chips, water available. Runtime: about two hours with one intermission.
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: In this one-woman play, Tina Rausa plays Rose, now in her 80s, living out her days in an apartment in Miami Beach, who sits Shiva on a wooden bench and talks about her life, her loves, and her losses from before WWII to the present day. You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy Rose, but some familiarity with The Holocaust, The Warsaw Uprising, Jewish Resettlement in Palestine, and the current cultural-political tensions within Israel as well as between Israel and her neighbors will inform your appreciation.
THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: Tina Rausa first played the character Rose in 2008, and Artistic Director Saul Elkin asked her to reprise the role which she described as “one of if not my most favorite roles ever.” It’s easy to see why, as Rose runs the gamut of emotions of love and loss, lust and shame, pride and confusion. Her story begins in a Russian village, then we are in the Warsaw Ghetto, on the ship Exodus, to Atlantic City’s boardwalks, Miami Beach, and many trips to Israel. Her life is a true 20thcentury story, touched by luck (she doesn’t believe in God) and apparently good genes and good sense (she takes her cholesterol pill with ice cream).
How can one person command a stage for almost two hours? Well, Rose is old, so she doesn’t move a lot, on “doctor’s orders” she’s supposed to sip water frequently, and if she forgets a line or two, or has the occasional moment of confusion, well, who can say that it wasn’t written that way in the script? Tina Rausa is completely believable in the role which was originally portrayed in London and New York by Olympia Dukakis.
In summary, this play was much more powerful, much more detailed, much more important in the canon of modern Jewish plays than the publicity would have you believe. It’s not a night of schtick and jokes; it’s a well told tale of the 20th century as witnessed by someone who lived it.
Up next at the JRT: SIGHT UNSEEN a play by Donald Margulies (April 19 – May 13, 2018) also to be directed by Saul Elkin.
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!