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The Thirst: A New Work For Jew and Clarinet

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The Thirst: A New Work For Jew and Clarinet, Blue Rider Theatre. Donna Blue Lachman has always been an autobiographical performer. Even when she impersonated historical figures like Frida Kahlo or Rosa Luxemburg, Lachman wore their masks lightly, careful to allow the audience to see the Donna Blue beneath. In her current show, The Thirst, Lachman tosses aside the masks and reveals with disarming honesty a woman who has taken a long time to accept who she is.

I'm not just talking about Lachman's Jewishness here, though the show is subtitled "A New Work for Jew and Clarinet" and she does devote a great deal of it to her struggle with her Jewish identity. Some of the more painful moments concern her desire as a teenager to pass for a gentile, and not just any gentile but shiksa goddess Yvette Mimieux.

Rather, Lachman uses her acceptance of her Jewish heritage as a metaphor for something larger: the final embracing of oneself, warts and all. And it's Lachman's gift for reaching beyond the easy cliches of a Jewish upbringing in Skokie that gives her work such resonance and universality. Home movies of her grand-father's trip through central Europe months before Stalin and Hitler put a bloody end to shtetl life add a bracing memento mori to Lachman's witty meditations.

The day after I saw the show Lachman called begging me to come back, saying she'd accidentally dropped several beats. Lachman should relax; a show can only be what it is, and the show I saw was great, dropped beats and all. --Jack Helbig

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): mini theater review.

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