Jaded reviewer gets tears
Bronstein’s dream comes true
by Christopher Key
Let’s get one thing straight. I do not cry at reviews. I’m usually too focused on what I am going to write and why to get swept away by emotion. So there’s a first time for everything. By the end of The Legacy, opening Thursday at Claire vg Thomas Theatre in Lynden, I was making a spectacle of myself. Or would have been if not for the fact that everyone else in the theatre was also in tears.
Director Marla Bronstein has unleashed an emotional wringer that will leave you limp. I’ll let her describe it.
“It was 1996 when I saw The Legacy at the Jewish Community Center in Mercer Island,” she says in her Director’s Notes. “Something, a lot of things, struck me in a very powerful way and I have dreamed about bringing this play to Whatcom County ever since. I had never directed a play at that point, but I never stopped thinking about this family. Was it that Dave missed his Bar Mitzvah? Was it that Rachel found strength in a religion other than Judaism? Was it Nathan’s incessant ‘knock-knock’ jokes? I’m not sure. I hope you will connect with this story, or in a different way, or any way at all.”
The operative word here is “connect.” Ever since the end of World War II, sociologists have been endlessly pointing out how our unprecedented mobility has led to disconnectedness and alienation. We lose touch with our hometowns, our families, our traditions and our cultural roots. Some of us pretend that it’s no big deal. Others of us seek refuge in multifarious spiritual practices. Still others of us create new families and traditions wherever we land. But the desire for connectedness seems universal. The Legacy speaks to those innate needs with tremendous eloquence.
Twelve-year-old Jonathan Henry demonstrates remarkable stage presence as the walking “knock-knock” joke who is alternately annoying and heartbreaking as the boy/man who has to deal with tragedy without understanding his connections.
I’ve reviewed Stephanie Blankers enough times to know that she’s one of the best actors in Whatcom County. She is simply stunning as the young mother dying of cancer and her performance will haunt you long after you leave the theatre.
Mark Miller is an emotional powerhouse as her husband, who tries desperately to find solace in his Jewish heritage even though he lost any real connection with it years ago. His sensitive portrayal ranges from outrage to bewilderment as he tries to give his son the connectedness that he has lost.
One of the most gratifying things in theatre is to see someone who has been too often cast in relatively minor roles given the chance to strut her stuff. Jill Likkel finally gets a role she can really sink her teeth into and she is magnificent as Aunt Sarah. Her conviction as the Christian Scientist who gives Blankers’ character something to hold onto is as authentic as it comes.
One of the best things about Clare vg Thomas Theatre is the presence of Kit Vonnegut. His subtle performance as Rabbi Bindler may be low-key compared to the histrionics of the rest of the cast, but it’s more effective precisely because of that contrast.
It’s probably important to note that this is not a “Jewish” show. Nor is it a “Christian” show. It’s an American show in the same way that Our Town is. It helps us understand who we are by taking a close look at who we were. Or at least who we thought we were.
The Legacy plays February 28 through March 17 at Lynden’s Claire vg Thomas Theatre, 655 Front Street in the Dutch Village Mall. See the CVGT website for precise dates and times. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors/students and $8 for children ages 3 – 8. The box office is open 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday or call (360) 354-4425.
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