Review: A Shayna Maidel (TimeLine Theatre)

| September 1, 2018

Emily Berman and Sarah Wisterman star as Lusia and Hanna in A Shayna Maidel, TimeLine Theatre (1)           

A Shayna Maidel

Written by Barbara Lebow
TimeLine Theatre, 615 W. Wellington (map)
thru Dec 16  |  tix: $40-$54  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   

Now extended thru December 16th!


Love between sisters overcomes dark time in world history


Emily Berman (Lusia), Carin Schapiro Silkaitis (Mama), Charles Stransky (Mordechai) and Bri Sudia (Rose)

TimeLine Theatre Company presents
A Shayna Maidel

Review by Lauren Emily Whalen

In an early scene in A Shayna Maidel, New Yorker Rose welcomes her long-lost sister Lusia into her bright, cheerful apartment. Chattering nervously to a woman who has only the barest grasp of English, whom she hasn’t seen since she was four years old, Rose points out her dinette set and kitchen. She insists Lusia take her room, insisting that she’s fine on the couch, sleeps on it frequently even, and does Lusia want something to eat or drink, because she needs to put meat on her bones. Once a shell-shocked Lusia, who’s Emily Berman and Alex Stein star as Lusia and Duvid in A Shayna Maidel, TimeLine Theatreonly recently escaped from a concentration camp after losing her mother, daughter and husband, finally retreats into the bedroom, Rose collapses onto herself and sobs.

This is why we need more female directors.

A Shayna Maidel is a story of the Holocaust, immigration and survival, but most of all it’s a story of sisters. Rose (Bri Sudia) and Lusia (Emily Berman) have lived incredibly different lives, the former an American through and through who sometimes goes by “Rose White”, the latter a survivor of one of history’s biggest massacres. Rather than resort to emotional manipulation and sap, playwright Barbara Lebow weaves a nuanced portrayal of a family divided by crisis, illness and pride. And with Director Vanessa Stalling (whose work on Goodman’s The Wolves and the House Theatre’s United Flight 232) at the helm, A Shayna Maidel – Yiddish for “a pretty girl” – shines a bright light on a dark time in world history.

I sat next to my own sister while reviewing A Shayna Maidel. Unlike Rose and Lusia, we were born Americans and raised together. Like the sisters on stage, however, one of us can recall a shared memory based on a song, a smell, a silver baby spoon. The beauty of Lebow’s script and Stalling’s direction is that both specify the personal details of Lusia and Rose’s relationship while painting a very universal picture of family complexities. When sisters fight, it’s said, they’re really rehashing every argument they’ve ever had. But what if, like Rose and Lusia, they were separated at such a young age, they never had arguments? Through flashbacks to Lusia’s life in Poland before, during and after Hitler’s reign of terror, Lebow and Stalling illustrate where she came from, and the gravity of a situation that, due to her emigration to the States as a small child, Rose will never know.

Emily Berman stars as Lusia in A Shayna Maidel, TimeLine Theatre Bri Sudia and Emily Berman star as Rose and Lusia in A Shayna Maidel, TimeLine TheatreEmily Berman (Lusia), Alex Stein (Duvid) and Bri Sudia (Rose) star in A Shayna Maidel Emily Berman and Bri Sudia star as Lusia and Rose  in A Shayna Maidel at TimeLine TheatreCharles Stransky (Mordechai), Emily Berman (Lusia) and Bri Sudia (Rose) star in A Shayna Maidel, TimeLine Theatre

Collette Pollard’s scenic design evokes a career gal’s Manhattan apartment in 1946 – from the prominent radio to the pastel cookware to the vanity table, everything is in its place. Though I wish Rose would have sported more than one pair of shoes, Samantha C. Jones’ costumes are realistic to each character, from Rose’s primarily pink day dresses to Lusia’s drab relief organization issued-togs, to the all-black suit, fedora and yarmulke sported by their father Mordechai (a perfectly gruff, imposing Charles Stransky). Additionally kudos go to Sarah Wisterman, playing Lusia’s childhood friend Hanna, who is a lively addition to flashback sequences with an arc of her own, from innocent schoolgirl giggling about boys to ill but hopeful refugee, dreaming of a life she will never have. Both Berman and Sudia create a dynamic relationship between Lusia and Rose, their sisterhood a living, breathing entity throughout the two-plus hours of the play. Like any growth process, watching them interact can be painful, awkward and heartbreaking. But as A Shayna Maidel progresses and the sisters learn to live with – and love – one another as adults, the viewing experience becomes infinitely rewarding.

Rating: ★★★½

A Shayna Maidel continues through November 4th December 2nd December 16th at TimeLine Theatre, 615 W. Wellington (map), with performances Wednesdays and Thursdays 7:30pm, Fridays 8pm, Saturdays 4pm & 8pm, Sundays 2pm.  Tickets are $40-$54 (students 35% off w/ ID. Military, first responders, vets and their families – $25), and are available by phone (773-281-8463) or online through their website (check for availability of half-price tickets). More info at time: 2 hours 20 minutes, includes an intermission)

Emily Berman (Lusia), Charles Stransky (Mordechai) and Bri Sudia (Rose) star in A Shayna Maidel, TimeLine

Photos by Lara Goetsch




Emily Berman (Lusia Weiss Pechenik), Carin Schapiro Silkaitis (Mama), Charles Stransky (Mordechai Weiss), Bri Sudia (Rose Weiss-until October 21), Alex Stein (Duvid Pechenik), Sarah Wisterman  (Hanna), Emily Glick (Rose Weiss-starting October 22), Ross Kugman, Julie Proudfoot, Mike Rogalski, Maggie Scrantom, Sarah Wisterman (understudies)

behind the scenes

Vanessa Stalling (director), Collette Pollard (scenic design), Samantha C. Jones (costume design), Rachel K. Levy (lighting design), Jeffrey Levin (sound design, composer), Elise Kauzlaric (dialect design), Deborah Blumenthal (dramaturg), Hillarie M. Shockley (prop design), Dina Spoerl (lobby display design), Sasha Mith (intimacy design), Mary Zanger (stage manager), April Cleveland (asst. director), Elle Erickson (production assistant), Lara Goetsch (photos, marketing)

Emily Berman and Bri Sudia star as Lusia and Rose in A Shayna Maidel, TimeLine Theatre


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Category: 2018 Reviews, Drama, Extensions-Remounts, Lauren Emily Whalen, TimeLine Theatre, Video, YouTube

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