New Jersey Jewish News
A triangle of love and faith
Thirty-something Rachel Gold finally has the kind of relationship with her mother for which she has longed. They see each other all the time. They talk. After all these years, Sheila Golds career she was an extremely successful businesswoman isnt the most important thing in her life. Instead, Rachel, whose career path steered her to Planned Parenthood, is.
Only one problem: Mom has terminal cancer and is living out her last days in a hospice.
Make that two problems: A dashing African-American TV evangelist oozing with charisma has suddenly materialized and is on the verge of persuading Mom to go back to California with him. In short order, their relationship becomes physical. But what about Moms relationship with Rachel? Her Judaism? Her bank account? Gone, gone, and gone unless Rachel can talk her mother out of this most unusual lifestyle change.
Rachel finally has her mother where she wants her, and shell be damned if some snake-oil salesman is going to steal Sheila away from her, said New York City-based playwright Gino Dilorio, whose newest work, Apostasy, chronicles this unlikely love triangle. The production will premiere at the New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch. Previews will be July 13 and 14; the play officially opens July 15.
Is the minister the true villain here? Dilorio asks. Is he attracted to Sheila or is he only attracted to Sheilas money? And what about Sheila, who ultimately must choose between her daughter and this evangelist? Is one choice right and the other wrong, or are there gray areas?
What I tried to do, the playwright continued, is put these issues on the fence and let those in the audience draw their own conclusions.
The poster advertising the play depicts a star of David, bent in several places and hanging from a crucifix. In retrospect, director SuzAnne Barabas admitted, the poster, while eye-catching, may not capture the essence of Apostasy.
If I was designing the poster today, I dont know if I would have quite gone in that direction, Barabas said. Certainly, the storyline has the Judaism versus evangelist component, but I wouldnt classify this as a religious play. To me, the play is about interpersonal relationships, about the motivation behind deeds. It has to do with people from different worlds being brought together. Ill say this: These are three roles the actors can really sink their teeth into.
The first of several staged readings of the play took place in the autumn of 2004. Since then, the script has undergone numerous revisions, but two constants have remained. All along, the mother-daughter tandem have been played by actresses Susan G. Bob and Natalie Wilder. (Evander Duck Jr., who portrays the charismatic Dr. Julius Strong, is new to the role.)
Im not saying Im anything like Sheila Gold, but Ive tried to put a lot of myself into this role, Bob said. Id describe Sheila as a woman who was energetic, independent, and driven to conquer life. Sheilas marriage failed, and her daughter holds her responsible for that failure. Rachel also feels that the time Sheila spent building a successful business was time the two of them should have spent together. This is where the character strikes a chord with me.
Like Sheila, when I work, I tend to get tunnel vision, said Bob. So when my kids were born, I knew I wanted to be there to see them grow up, and that became my priority. My approach was different, but I could definitely understand what motivated Sheila.
Barabas, herself a Jewish parent, was drawn to the notion of self-sacrifice.
As a Jew, youre taught to challenge and to interpret, she said. It doesnt mean we dont believe but that we should ask questions. Here, a dying woman thinks she might have found the answers shes looking for in an evangelist she saw on television. Is her daughter right to try to change her mothers mind? Or, in doing so, is she denying her mothers happiness? Maybe Mom will be bilked out of her money, but maybe she can spend her final days with a man she loves, which would be a good thing.
The question then becomes whether Rachel is looking out for her mothers interests or her own interests.
Even though the playwright isnt Jewish, the exchanges between Sheila and Rachel Gold arent unlike the kinds of discussions that have been going on in Jewish households for generations.
My wife is Jewish, Dilorio said. I suppose being around conversations involving some combination of my wife, her sister, and her mother have rubbed off on me.
The nuances of the script appear to have rubbed off on the cast members as well.
The chemistry Susan and Natalie have developed is such that I have to keep reminding myself that theyre not really mother and daughter, Dilorio said. That adds a dimension that audiences should find intriguing.
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