Heart Song World Premiere
by Stephen Sachs
“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of
your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow
leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in
their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath
have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things
will take their place.
Playwright Stephen Sachs’ exploration of Jewish guilt wrapped in Spanish Flamenco seasoned with man’s inhumanity to man seen through the eyes of the Holocaust and Heart Mountain culminate in the shaking off of sorrow and the resolution to move forward in life.
A burst of energy confronts the opening night audience for Stephen Sachs’ new play. Kartina ‘s (commanding Maria Bermudez) fingersnaps and flashing eyes challenge us to be present and we’d better be accounted for. Fountain Theatre Co-Founder Stephen Sachs’ last effort, Bakersfield Mist was so well structured and beautifully done that I really wanted to his new play.
The Fountain has been a venue for Forever Flamenco for many years as well as welcoming original productions to its stage. This world premiere for Heart Song draws on the fiery passions of the dance and presumably features dancers from the Flamenco program there.
Flamenco, as described by Katrina, a Spanish Gypsy who takes this artform very, very personally, is an expression of the essence of life… and death. El Morte, she says, is always present in the room with Life, La Vida. Her Flamenco class renews the spirit, bringing women of completely different backgrounds back to their goddess nature, their essence and their purpose: their true selves. This is serious business and the expressions on the faces of these dedicated dancers tell the tale precisely.
Rochelle (Pamela Dunlap) is on the phone with her rabbi. Though not an observant Jew, she feels obligated to follow tradition to dedicate the monument to be unveiled on her mother’s grave in less than two weeks’ time. She is in physical and emotional distress as her body worker / masseuse Tina (beautiful Tamlyn Tomita), strives to relieve her tension. Tina diagnoses a severe blockage in Rochelle’s heart chakra and suggests that attending Katrina's flamenco class might be just the thing. Even though Rochelle is Jewish and is built no way like a dancer, she allows Tina to drag her to the mysterious Kartina's class. Katrina explains that the parallels between Gypsy traditions and the exile of Jews goes all the way back to early days in Spain when Muslims, Moors and Jews all wound up there together.
Members of Katrina’s class, Andrea Dantas, Sherrie Lewandowski, Mindy Krasner and exotic Elissa Kyriaccou are essentially back up dancers (each of whom performs with precision) combined with a very strong portrayal by Juanita Jennings as cancer survivor Daloris make this production work. Though occasionally hit and miss on Opening Night, Flamenco sweeps the audience up into its rhythms and on to a moving climax as Rochelle discovers what she has always known about her mother's internment in Nazi Germany. At once sad and in places very funny, Sachs script is loaded with pungent one liners and Rochelle's angst as she must execute tradition without a minyan or her rabbi to dedicate the marker on her mother's grave at the one year anniversary of her death.
The extraordinarily moving power of Flamenco keeps the story and the characters alive. Workable set by Tom Buderwitz and nice direction by Shirley Jo Finney complete the kind of show we expect from The Fountain.
HEART SONG by Stephen Sachs
The Fountain Theatre
5060 Fountain Avenue (at Normandie)
May 18 through July 14, 2013
Thursdays through Sundays
Call Theatre for ticket information and specific times
323 663 1525
www . FountainTheatre . com
Tickets $25.00 - $34.00