Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Edith Stein"

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note: entire contents copyright 2004 by Julie Pummer

"Edith Stein"

Reviewed by Julie Pummer

The best theatre seems to propel us out of our comfort zone, away from the familiar, into a realm that defies our ability to predict. It was a beautiful, warm Sunday when I entered a former church, converted into a theatre, for a performance of Edith Stein, a new play with its Boston premiere in the South End. That the tale to unfold is as elegant as the sun illuminating the stained glass in the afternoon is just a coincidence. Any preconception based on the ambiance befitting a play about a nun is shaken when an actor dressed as a Nazi marches onto the stage to shout that all cell phones, pagers, and any other electronic devices should be turned off. Then comes extended audio of Hitler and shouts of adulation, then train sounds, machine guns, screams, silence, music.

And then, the play begins. Whoever said God Is Dead never fully comprehended the unrelenting love, gratitude, and steadfast determination in the life and death of a saint, let alone the Savior. That very gratitude afforded one Edith Stein a peace that surpasses all understanding. Miss Stein who converted to Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, her sister and many others were deported to Auschwitz and gassed on August 7, 1942. This play by Arthur Giron is based on the life of this philosopher, feminist and Carmelite nun who never denied her faith, convictions or Jewish heritage. Fiat Productions, Ltd. deserves more than simple kudos for producing this inspired piece of art, as do the cast and crew for exquisitely conveying Miss Stein’s plight, conversion, vocation and fruition.

The cohesive ensemble cast with a gutsy, vulnerable and passionate Ellen Lokos in the title role sustains the intricate dynamics with seamless chemistry. We enjoy meeting Edith as the initially urbane yet tough, domestically-challenged academic who wrestles with the reality of physical death. Then we welcome her spiritual metamorphosis into Sister Teresa and witness a new conflict, as she wrestles with the reality of spiritual death.

Jason Reulet as Karl-Heinz represents the ultimate in unlovable, seemingly beyond redemption, and yet he depicts the character with deliberate depravity that we see an almost complete helplessness. Such moral bankruptcy in a man in dire need of someone to intercede on his behalf has us hoping Sister Teresa might find it in her own redeemed heart to pray for him … if not for the salvation of his soul, then peace for her own.

The tension between Karl-Heinz and Edith Stein poses the challenge of unconditional charity – the call to love one’s enemies being easier said than done. Profundity lies in the audience’s ability to identify with Sister Teresa’s bitter reluctance to extend any love whatsoever to her enemy, the embodiment of annihilation that threatens her flesh and blood.

Steven Stuart’s gifted direction takes the audience through emotionally-charged scenes with the gentlest of touches. From onstage costume changes to lighting to use of space and props, all aspects of this production were clearly given careful attention so that the historical element works in conjunction with its spiritual counterpart. Much like a Rembrandt painting, natural and supernatural intertwine in one vivid display of perseverance.

February 26-29 and March 4-7 at 7:30pm, Sundays 2:30pm only
Edith Stein by Arthur Giron, directed by Steven Stuart
Jorge Hernandez Cultural Center
85 West Newton Street
Boston, MA
Advanced Tickets 617-536-6382
$20 Adult / $15 Students and Seniors
Tickets Sold at Door for $25
Group Rate $15 each for parties of 10 or more

"Edith Stein" (26 February - 7 March)
Jorge Hernandez Cultural Cente, 85 West Newton Street, BOSTON MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide