A young American Jewish writer, with writer's block, goes to Poland to meet his much older cousin. a survivor of the Holocaust. David is, to put it mildly, something of a jerk and yet the 75-year-old Maria searches for the good in him as she seeks to reconnect with family.
In The Revisionist by playwright and actor Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) all sorts of connections are explored not only in the relationship between the two members of this family but with the other character in the play, taxi driver Zenon played by Steve Irish (In the Next Room...Or, the Vibrator Play).
Houston Theater Award winner Leslie Swackhamer (My Manana Comes, Marie Antoinette) directs the one-act and Cristine McMurdo-Wallis (Four Places, The Man from Nebraska) and Nik Crawford (a recent Texas State University grad making his Stages debut) play the roles initiated by Vanessa Redgrave and Eisenberg himself on stage in New York.
It is set in Poland in 2007 and, in fact, some of the dialog is in Polish. They had a Polish language consultant come in and help with their lines although they did rehearse them with English translations so the actors would have a sense of what they were saying. One thing Swackhamer says she learned when she was researching anything to do with Poland is that "Polish is one of the hardest languages to learn."
Describing her character Maria, McMurdo-Wallis says: "She's strong, a little damaged, but has coped with it. She believes strongly in family. Family is the most important thing to her."
McMurdo-Wallis and Swackhamer have a mutual admiration society and both jumped at the chance to work on this co-production between Stages Repertory Theatre and the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center (they have collaborated before). Also there was the chance to play Maria, McMurdo-Wallis says. It's a magnificent role. And its an interesting script. And how often do older women get a role like this?"
The characters come at life from very different places. "They're at such different places in their lives. The idea that he can live in New York City and be surrounded by family and never see them. David is very millennial and she is really old school," Swackhamer says.
Still, McMurdo-Wallis says: "They do have a nice time. You think this could be a good thing for both of them,"
Swackhamer says what surprised her when they began rehearsing is she realized the play has quite a bit more depth than she thought when she initially read the script. And there's more humor in it than she first thought.
"It's got universal themes. The whole generational theme. I think the cross cultural theme they're talking about. And just the juicy acting," Swackhamer says. "Anytime we can see people genuinely living in the moment and touching each other in small ways exploring big things it's very fulfilling theater."
Performances are scheduled for April 10-22 at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at The Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center, 5601 South Braeswood. For information, call 713-527-0123 or visit stagestheatre.com. $25-$59
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