Local Writer’s Powerful Play Evokes Gamut of Emotions

From The Cleveland Plain Dealer – 3/12/02
Tony Brown –┬áPlain Dealer Theater Critic

For more than a few moments in Beachwood writer Faye Sholiton’s newest play, “The Interview,” tears cannot be stayed from even the most cynical viewer’s eyes. More to Sholiton’s credit, it is impossible to say if they are from joy or sorrow.

The stories and memories the two central characters share over the course of the 135-minute play, which premiered over the weekend at Halle Theatre in Cleveland Heights, range from bitter to painful.

But that the women are able to recall them, tell them, own them and pass them along is a gift of courage and humanity.

Since the death of her husband, Bracha Weissman (played by Marji Dodrill with dignity and grace) has transformed her home in Beachwood into a fortress. She bluntly tells a guest, “I don’t like pests.”

Likewise, she has transformed herself into a emotional stone wall. She cannot come to terms with the ancestors who died in the Nazi death camps she miraculously survived. Nor can she communicate with her daughter, who has grown up and away from her mother’s harsh judgment of herself and those around her.

But Bracha’s armor eventually begins to crack when a local historian, Ann Meshenberg (Anna Kitral, who deftly vacillates between strength and helplessness) appears on her snowy doorstep one January day in 1995 to interview her for a project on Holocaust survivors.

It turns out that Ann, who is the daughter of other Nazi victims, has her own anger issues simmering just below her cigarette habit. The two women connect in a way that elevates the situation above the cliche a lesser playwright might have settled for.

While Bracha does not speak with her daughter, Rifka, she does converse with a vision she has of her grown child. The device used by director Tom Fulton to seamlessly conjure that vision – an actress (beseeching Kathryn Wolfe Sebo) appearing like a ghost behind a black upstage scrim – brings the messy outside world into Bracha’s carefully arranged living room.

It’s a small thing, “The Interview,” an intimate play born out of a journalism/history project Sholiton was involved with seven years ago. And the playwright once or twice resorts to lowest-common-denominator melodramatic tactics.

But it grows on you and manages to blossom into a story of mothers and daughters, parents and children, forgiving and being forgiven.

Near the end, Bracha has one more encounter, with a 19-year-old videographer assisting Ann with her history project (Michael C. Roache, part goof, part earnest young man). In a gesture that recalls a small event just after she liberated herself from Auschwitz, he offers her something to eat.

We in the audience don’t see the morsel he unwraps; we don’t need to. We already know what it is from Bracha’s story. This is one of those moments with tears. It is one of those moments we who go to the theater live for.