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From Holocaust to Brooklyn. A love story.

Olga Imbaquingo, Correspondent in New York for EL COMERCIO

Life is more than a path of petals and thorns – is the main idea in “Enemies, a love story”. This is a novel by Nobel Prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer that was recently presented at Philip Coltoff Center in New York.

This master piece was put on stage by a Russian director Slava Stepnov and involved a cosmopolitan cast. Among the cast members was Cristina Morrison, an Ecuadorian-American actress. Her last work in Ecuador was a novel “I know who came to kill me”. In New York theatre, the image of Morrison’s heroine appears from mettle of dialogue and motions. Simply…. Convincing.

“There were many reasons for staging this play” – says Stepnov. “My experience proves that there are works that choose me. Singer is a master of weaving stories of love. He is a virtuoso who can fit global problems into a simple plot. The major themes of the plot are very close to reality. Everything has its time and I felt that it was the right time for me to attempt staging this play.”

The story takes place in Brooklyn, in forties. The central character is a polish immigrant Herman Broder (Roman Freud) who struggles through life after his parents, wife, and children were turned into ashes at the extermination camps.

Where does he take the strength to continue standing after the calamity of war? His humble servant, Yadwiga (Ana Grosse, Argentine) becomes his glimmer of faith, love, life and fidelity in this broken world. Broder marries her because he has to somehow thank the one who was giving him roof and food for three years, while he was hiding from Nazis in a barn.

Another love story unfolds in synch with the rhythms of John Zorn’s fusion of jazz and rock - Broder’s affair with his true love Mash (Martina Potratz, Switzerland). Masha is not only Broder’s lover, she has a much more intimate connection to him – she is also a Holocaust survivor.

In a twisted passage of events, this comic and tragic love triangle becomes a love quadrangle when Tamara (Cristina Morrison), Broder’s wife whom he presumed dead, appears in the scene. She escaped Nazi crematorium, and seems to become bullet proof from her sufferings and losses. Despite her cold and strong demeanor, the dialogues and body language clearly show that she and Broder are still in love with each other. Tamara refuses to burry herself with her past, but is not afraid that an attempt to bring her husband back is going to mean self-destruction for both of them.

The stage setting is very simple: the only objects we see are suitcases and a lamp. The suitcases are not only used as seats and beds. Their purpose is to constantly remind the owners of their past. They are the symbol of the past that nobody has a power to undo, the past that has predetermined all of their future travel. While the suitcases are out, life will not continue….
Among other significant pieces of stage design are stones. Stepnov thinks that the interpretation of this symbol should be different for everyone. Stone is a biblical symbol. In Jewish culture not flowers, but stones are placed on the graves of the dead… unlike flowers, they never wither.

Brooklyn is the scene of a new life, Broder does not believe in. However he is able to embellish it for the speeches he writes for Rabbi Lampert (Tyree Giroux). Broder, now a ghost writer, is insecure - he does not believe in God. He is also torn between Yadwiga and Masha. He is constantly deciding whether he should leave Yadviga for his love to Masha, or, perhaps, it is best to return to Tamara? One would say that this is an unsophisticated story of a man entangled in his affairs. It is not. In essence, this is a philosophical observation through the eyes of expatriates and persecuted. “God could prevent the deaths of Jews,” Masha says, running towards the precipice of self-destruction, as is Tamara, toughened and pain in disguise. Brooklyn will make the new nest for her and Yadwiga. Maybe this time there will be more petals than thorns on the road.

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