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by Anthony Chase
Christina Rausa has long specialized in monologues. She’s been Golda Meir; she’s been Emily Dickinson. She is an actress with an engaging stage presence and the ability to sit and tell a story, simply, clearly, and with compelling dramatic force.
In Martin Sherman’s Rose, Rausa portrays a 20th-century Jewish Everywoman named Rose.
As the play begins, Rose is sitting Shivah for a young girl who has been shot through the forehead by a bullet that has ended her life in mid-thought. From this beginning, she goes on to tell the story her own life, a journey that has seen many of the major events of Jewish history of the last century.
It will be a story framed by two hauntingly similar deaths, both of young girls, both in mid-thought, but she manages to intersperse these tales of great anguish with both insight and humor. Rose observes that Judaism’s greatest contribution is to ask questions that have no answers.
Her story takes us back to the shtetl in the Ukraine, where she grew up. Here, the onset of menstruation coincides with a Cossack pogrom, inspiring Rose to observe that if you have your first period and your first pogrom in the same month, you can safely conclude that your childhood is over!
Rose journeys to the Warsaw ghetto, where she meets the love of her life—the first of three husbands. They have a daughter. She loses them both in a Nazi raid.
Rose fatefully ends up in the misadventures of the ill-fated ship Exodus that endeavored to transport Jewish immigrants into Palestine illegally in 1947. She recounts the incidents that captured the world’s attention when the British surrounded the ship, rammed it, and did battle with the displaced persons aboard. She tells of arriving in Palestine and kissing the ground, only to be sent back to Europe.
From this point, her story takes her to Atlantic City, to Miami, and finally to Israel, where she finds that her own son and grandchild barely consider her to be a Jew any more.
This might seem like a lot of plot to recount, but I’ve actually only brushed the surface.
Sherman, who also wrote Bent, has constructed a forceful monologue that manages to sustain all of this history within a single woman’s life without seeming especially contrived or even unlikely. This, after all, was the story of numerous people, and it resonates powerfully in today’s world, as we continue to make impossible choices and to pose questions that have no answers.
Rausa gives a clear and often inspiring performance, under the unobtrusive direction of Saul Elkin. Ann Emo’s costumes evoke character and tone perfectly. Tom Makar’s sound design is very effective, including cello performance by Emily Elkin.
Issue Navigation> Issue Index > v8n44 (week of Thursday, October 29) > Theaterweek > Rose
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