Shadayim By Stephanie Bramson
Directed by James Dryden
Presented at Sleuth’s Mystery Dinner Show
Orlando, FL

Even though this event is at Sleuth’s, you don’t get dinner and a murder mystery here; this show is just renting space. But I digress…

Mom has just died, dad is a mess, and its time to sit Shiva in the orthodox Feldman household. Michelle (Carolyn Ducker) and Cousin Sara (Cami Riviezzo) claim Orthodoxy; but what they sound like to my goyish ears is “Reformed, hold the mayo.” Michelle is the responsible one; she buys extra food, agonizes over spills, and intones her mantra “We here to honor mother” over and over again, although HOW we do that is unclear. Sara is nearly as responsible; she’s going to live in Israel for a year and isn’t THAT all la-de-da? But even though she’s made the down payment on her apartment the others bust her chops about leaving just a month after the death. The two intriguing gals are Zoe (Erica Bamberski) who sits sister to Michele, and that other cousin, 16 year old Leah (Julie Gottfried). Leah chants “I’m getting my nipples pierced” to anyone she can shock. Even Zoe objects and she operates a porno webcam like its 2007, and boy, is she raking in the cash. So Leah admires Zoë, everyone thinks Sara is too, too perfect, and of course there’s a big, dark, make the rabbi kvetch “Oy, Vey!” secret floating around. It takes a while for it to surface, but when it does, the story picks up a focus and momentum it lacks in the first act.

Ms. Riviezzo give us the most consistent and hermetic performance; she seems to have the least trivial lines in the show and gives the the biggest punch. Ms. Bamberski is a close second although when we learn she was raised orthodox my first thought was: “Yeah. Ri…ght.” Her blatant sexuality and petty destructiveness seemed far from her purported upbringing, and she was well past the age of gratuitous vandalism. Ms. Gottfried’s rebellion was more age appropriate; she does and says things that are pure sulfurous bile and her unfocused anger fits the age she’s assigned. Trying to keep a lid on the pot is Ms. Ducker who repeatedly inquires “How is everyone holding up?” Fine, thank you, and pass the rugelach.

This is a new play from a local writer whose mission statement states her goal is giving multiple good roles to female actors. I think she’s accomplished that; the story feels both physically and emotionally claustrophobic. It also has plenty of snappy dialog even if it seem like no one up there takes their faith very seriously even as they insist otherwise. There’s only a short run of this show, and its way down by that large and occasionally working Ferris wheel. It’s worth checking out for its novelty value: There are, indeed, four meaty roles for females, and they are fun to watch.

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