Between the script and Elina de Santos' thorough, cultured, nurturing direction, this production is painful to watch. It should be. It doesn't reflect the best in people, but it reflects us truthfully. Though centering on Jewish characters and themes, the sexual dysfunction, self-loathing, and self-delusion the characters suffer are common to humankind. Needless to say, Miller pinpoints personality types and speech patterns.
Miller's central character, Phillip Gellburg, reflects ambivalence about his heritage. He has fought to assimilate in the workplace but mentions a wish to live an Orthodox lifestyle. Michael Bofshever makes him a man with much on his mind except the events transpiring in Europe, the actor's mind apparently whirring with Gellburg's lies and unhappiness. Gellburg describes his wife, Sylvia, as someone who could have run the Federal Reserve.
To hear her tell it, however, he demeaned her physically and mentally. She obsessively reads the newspaper—or perhaps that's how thoroughly people once read such things—and develops paralysis in her legs after learning about Kristallnacht. Susan Angelo tenderly and terrifyingly creates Sylvia's thoughts and movements; at one point the actor's physicality is so real her legs look completely lifeless. Angelo's sadly tolerant wife absorbs the pain of the world and then half refuses to feel it.
Tending to Sylvia, a Jewish physician more interested in riding horses than in the state of his people offers her the kindness probably lacking in her marriage. Stephen Burleigh plays him elegantly; one wishes the actor didn't drop the ends of his lines, as he has much to offer the text and the feel of the play.
Peggy Dunne limns the doctor's wife, a bundle of repressed hostility. Renae Geerlings reflects period behavior and bearing as Sylvia's sister, and, as Phillip's gentile boss, Lindsey Ginter makes disdain the highest art. The stories play out on Erin Brewster's chilly set of frosted glass walls.
Presented by West Coast Jewish Theatre at the Pico Playhouse, 10580 Pico Blvd., L.A. Feb. 25–Apr. 17. Thu.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (323) 821-2449. firstname.lastname@example.org.