Rosa Lublin | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Rosa Lublin

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Rosa Lublin, Piven Theatre. Sometimes the very quality in a writer that attracts an adapter can prove an obstacle. Here Robin Chaplik adapts and directs two Cynthia Ozick short stories about the titular Holocaust survivor. And it's easy to see why Chaplik loves Ozick's prose: she renders even the most horrifying details in memorably acute and beautiful detail. But despite a solid cast, Chaplik's adaptation comes across as stodgy: the dialogue and narration incorporate too much of Ozick's language.

The brief first part of the evening, Ozick's heartbreaking "The Shawl," works best. Laura Scott Wade as the young Rosa, futilely trying to hide her infant daughter in the death camps, is incandescent in her vulnerability and desperate mother love. But the show begins to bog down when it re-creates Rosa's life in 1980s Miami. Celeste Lynch has a waspish charm as the elderly woman, but we never fully see the dangerous, self-destructive hysteria that Ozick's short story "Rosa" suggests. Bernie Landis delivers one of his trademark good-hearted Jewish-geezer turns, but Carmella Mulvihill's performance as Stella--Rosa's niece and fellow survivor, whom she blames for her daughter's death--feels lifted from Mike Myers's Linda Richman character on Saturday Night Live. If Chaplik could shorten and sharpen the second story, some of its most startling sections--particularly the revelations of Rosa's classism, evident in her disdain for her fellow Jews--would resonate more.

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