Duke Theater, Stunning

186 I read two reviews on the play Stunning and felt compelled to go.  I took my Dad and his wife.  I had never been to the Duke Theater before which is a small theater, 199 seats, on 42nd Street, connected with Lincoln Center geared towards emerging playwrights.  Great venue. 

The play, Stunning, is about a Syrian Jewish family living in Brooklyn.  The main character, who is a 16 year old girl, Lily,  has just married a middle aged man, is an incredible actress (Cristin Milioti).  She is a bit shell shocked and uneducated as she has known this man since she was 12.  As much as Lily wants to be part of the world she is in, she seems to be uncomfortable and not sure about it.  She has had no life experience, her education ceased when she was about 12 and she really doesn't even like her husband.  Her role is to now have as many children as possible  Yet, she is a child playing a grown-up.

Lily hires a maid, an African American, named Blanche (Charlayne Woodard).  She is also a fantastic actress.  Blanche tries to open Lily's eyes to the world, teach her that she can take control of her own destiny.  But, at the end of the day, can she? 

On the drive out to the beach this weekend, Emily and I were discussing religion.  She doesn't understand why anyone would be so religious.  She understands the community aspects but sees that religion has caused more trouble ( Middle East ) than it is worth and who is to say if religion actually is real.  We had an interesting conversation about it and although she didn't see the play, I told her about it.  Lily, the main character, as much as she wanted to leave the life that she had been born in to, she couldn't.  Where would she go, her family would consider her dead, she would have no support system, she had no education, etc.  It takes a pretty strong independent person to be able to cut those ties.  Emily wondered if another 100 years from now we will still be seeing the Hasidic Jews roaming through Williamsburg as we did the other night.  Who knows?

As much as the play had a bit of a mixed message, the characters were all held back by where they came from and who they were.  The stage set which was also well done was completely white and every piece of furniture continued to change at each act like transformers. 

Stunning, is David Adjmi's, the playwright's,  New York debut.  Impressive. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. ShanaC

    I normally comment on your husband’s blog. It has been one of the best things that have happened to me in my entire life.This post struck me though. I grew up in a Centerist/Modern Orthodox Family. While I am still young, I have come to a realization that I have to find my faith within Judaism (I’m stuck there).Last time the National Jewish Population Survey came out, in 2000 (roughly) they released a special report on Orthodoxy in America. About 50% drop out if they were born Orthodox.That being said, of those I know who have mostly dropped out, or have dropped out, or in the process of dropping out (And I keep meeting people like that), in some ways, they are still nominally Orthodox. There is a culture to it. We have our own sub-dialect of English, for example. Especially as you get more orthodox, though we do intermix (sort of) with each other.Communal outreach is very strong, and your reputation and your family’s reputation follows you. It is hard to leave for example, because I have never seen anything like an Orthodox Shabbos in my life. (It’s not just a me thing either: http://www.jewcy.com/advice… ) It is difficult to leave, because the fully fleshed out Orthodox community is also an extended family: My mother had breast cancer- and we had a full freezer far after she was done with chemo.It is also difficult to leave beacuse no matter what stream of Orthodoxy you come from, we lead very sheltered lives. We don’t have the full sense of cultural touchstones, and when we do, they are often only with other Orthodox Jews. It creates some interesting questions about how to concieve of questions of sexuality, education, science,, schooling, drinking, a whole gamut of behaviors that others take for granted. It’s a set of laws about a social system.And now, even those Syrian women, for the most part, are educated in them, or at least know how to get self educated, from the textual sense. I’m part of the first generation of women who can sit and read a daf of gemara (with great difficulty, it takes a lot of translation time). Having the availability to talk about Jewish legal literature and its development in a serious manner gives me a ziegist that others outside of Orthodoxy and Academia don’t share. Further, we have cultural memes that are strong as well. You once posted way back about sweet noodle kugel and making it non-dairy. That idea and how to do it is something innate to just growing up for me.Due, in part, to the internet- this is all radicalizing. I can’t tell you what tomorrow will be like in Orthodox-land, let alone 100 years, with the Chassidim of Williamsburg and Boro Park. I can tell you that large amounts of people are either very frightened for the future, or very excited, or burnt out, because that future is actually happening.If you or your daughter is curious about more traditional approaches- go back to the Lincoln Center 1 stop. Right near it is Drisha Institute. They do a lot of traditional text study, primarily for women, and taught mostly by women, (mostly older women though), ut the spectrum of people who go run the gamut. They were honored by Slingshot as an innovative Jewish Organization in 2006- and they serious about their classes.