If you are interested in two plays about racial persecution that are motivated by and echo in today’s world, run do not walk to The CAPS-ATC Productions’ presentation of
Bertolt Brecht’s “The Jewish Wife” and Jean-Paul Sartre’s “The Respectful Prostitute” running through December 9th at T.U. Studios in The North Hollywood Arts District.
Both plays tell stories of suffering, doubt and paranoia. The first, translated by Eric Bentley, of a Jewish wife in Berlin, Germany in the late 1930’s leaving the world she knows behind because of
the impending and
looming threat of the Nazi Party and its brutal and final anti-Jewish solution, is simple but profound in plot, intent and execution.
“Only for a couple of weeks,” the wife tells the husband about the length of her departure, though we, the audience, know it may be forever.
The writing is bold and sure, never leaving us wondering of its sincerity or direction.
Director Aramazd Stepanian, who directs both plays, sets an ominous, but genuine, tone, yet allows the two actors freedom enough to make viable choices that meld beautifully with the German
playwright’s story of
racial and religous abuse.
The lone Stand Out is Sandrine Sahakians (Judith Keith (The Wife)) who runs away with the show by giving a sensitive and convincing turn as a woman trusting instinct and intuition in risking
her old life for a new one.
Sahakians portrays the character with depth, feeling and extreme ache. The actress is natural, wonderfully gifted and as delicate as a freshly-picked yellow rose.
The second play focuses on a prostitute trapped between two versions of an incident where the truth is murky. In experiencing great doubt, pain and fear in choosing which description of the truth
to embrace, she
begins to understand that she must live with the consequences of her actions and decisions.
Set somewhere in the Southern United States sometime in the last century and translated by Lionel Abel, the language, blunt and often frank, candid and unequivocal (the N word is uttered at
least 39 times)
nonetheless manages to lead us, the audience, into a universe where good is bad and bad is good. Morals and ethics are upended and human beings used like Kleenex.
There is no love here, only sex and racism. Sartre brilliantly paints the outlines of of a town caught-up and caged in its own selfishness and uncertainty. The black man is cautious of the white man
and vice versa.
The chocolate and vanilla extremes do not mix, leading to a ice cream sundae of a city without balance or taste. The French playwright’s work is pure, unbending and uncompromising.
Stepanian does not deviate from the mission and purpose of Sartre’s message. The longtime Armenian director allows the fury, anger and hypocrisy of the piece to emerge naturally.
Stand Outs on the second-to-last Sunday of the run when this critic saw the show include:
Stepanian (Austin Clarke (The Senator)) who with wisdom, wit and will compassionately and steadfastly creates a character who uses subtlety and charm rather than violence and intimidation to
get what he wants.
Stepanian, also a veteran actor, shows what he has learned over the years with a lean and measured, but ultimately, muscular characterization.
But stealing the show is Maude Bonanni (Lizzie McKay (The Prostitute)) who sizzles, sashays and seduces in style, substance and sexuality. The Italian and French actress builds her performance
The more the writing demands, the more Bonanni gives. The more her character cries out in the dark, the more the experienced actress comes to the rescue. In the second half, her vulnerability
and fragility mark a
woman in psychological and spiritual turmoil who finds herself at a crossroads.
The talented thespian gives a courageous portrayal touched by strength, sauciness and sweat.
The New York-trained actress does not abandon her purpose or motivation here, only getting more electric, raw and interesting as the show progresses.
There is an uncommon generosity and sincerity behind Bonanni’s talent, which are on full display. She is naked in spirit and mind, yet full in range and geometry.
This critic hopes to see Bonanni on the stages of North Hollywood and Los Angeles again soon.
All in all, “The Jewish Wife” and “The Respectful Prostitute,” then, succeed because of, not despite, their themes of racial and religous prejudice.
In an alabaster orb where the truth depends on who is telling it, Brecht and Sartre prove that racial and religous persecution can happen anywhere good people do nothing when evil raises its
In an age when mass shootings often signal a racial or religous bias, these two written works of art show the length and width of the problem and the bravery and love it will take to overcome the
and indecision holding us back as a country, people and planet.
The pairing of these two groundbreaking dramas also proves that all is well at CAPS-ATC Productions, one of the most daring and courageous theatre companies in Los Angeles or anywhere.
Kudos and more to all involved.
By Radomir Vojtech Luza
Theatre, Film and Book Critic
Friday and Saturday at 8 PM
Sunday at 7 PM
Tickets: $20.00 per person or $65.00 for four persons
Use DISCOUNT CODE: RADOMIR for a 20% Discount per Ticket.
WHERE: T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo Street, North Hollywood, CA