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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

The Tenth Man

The Tenth Man
Richard Fiske, Craig Miller, Steven Quartell, Mick Tinder, Ron Sarro and Kari Ginsburg
American Century Theater in Arlington, Virginia, and director William Aitken have put a lot of effort into their production of Paddy Chayefsky's 1959 play The Tenth Man, but it isn't an easy work to stage or for an audience to appreciate: a collision between Jewish mysticism and an American world of subways and existential angst.

The setting is a crumbling Orthodox synagogue in Mineola, Long Island, in 1959. Nine aging men have gathered for their weekday morning prayers, but the service can't begin without the presence of 10 men (in Hebrew, a minyan). The sexton (Joe Cronin) eventually finds Arthur Brooks (Steven Quartell), a bitterly cynical Jewish-born lawyer who drinks to escape the futility he sees in life, and brings him in to serve as the tenth man.

The other anomaly in the congregation on this day is the presence of Evelyn Foreman (Kari Ginsburg), the troubled granddaughter of one of the regular congregants (Richard Fiske). Evelyn has been institutionalized for schizophrenia with violent tendencies, but now she is also showing signs of possession by a dybbuk—an abandoned soul that inhabits a living body—and her grandfather persuades the other members of the congregation to attempt an exorcism. Arthur is obviously skeptical, as is the overwhelmed young rabbi (Matthew Meixler), but the others insist.

Ginsburg gives everything she has to her portrayal of Evelyn, bringing the character's rapidly shifting moods to life through her darting eyes, but the character as written may be impossible to perform. Evelyn is, by turns, a wide-eyed child, a damned soul, a desperate yet passionate woman seeking salvation in love, and a person who periodically sinks into catatonia: a tall order for any performer.

The other standouts are Ron Sarro, as an old-line Communist who ridicules what he sees as the foolish excesses of religious beliefs, and Craig Miller, as the resident practitioner of Kabbalah who has spent decades examining the mystic meanings underlying Jewish practice and expounds his discoveries in rapturous monologues.

American Century Theater
The Tenth Man
September 17th October 16th
By Paddy Chayefsky
Hirschman (the Cabalist): Craig Miller
Sexton: Joe Cronin
Schlissel: Ron Sarro
Zitorsky: Mick Tinder
Alper: Stephen Rourke
Foreman: Richard Fiske
Evelyn Foreman: Kari Ginsburg
Arthur Brooks: Steven Quartell
Harris: James Svatko
Rabbi: Matthew Meixler
Kessler Boys: Brendan Haley and Jim Callery
Policeman: Bill Gordon
Directed by William Aitken
Gunston Theatre II, 2700 S. Lang St.
Arlington, VA 22206
Ticket Information: www.americancentury.org


Photo: Dennis Deloria


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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