In this brave new world of modern technology, changing alliances and invisible provocateurs, religion remains a mainstay in many parts of the world.
If this thesis appeals to you, run don’t walk to Art Shulman’s The Rabbi and the Shiksa, running through Nov. 18 at the Secret Rose Theatre in the NoHo Arts District.
This play within a play is to Judaism what rain is to a rose.
This love story centers on a Jewish rabbi, who in falling for a non-Jewish woman, has his faith and that of those around him severely tested.
The rabbi soon learns that there are more important things to being a Jew than his small insulated world and daily duties.
In holding his own and ignoring the opinions of his temple’s board members and some in his own congregation, the rabbi proves to be a man’s man and a true independent spirit.
Shulman’s premise is valid and in some ways courageous. The play never strays from the rabbi and his world view, and in so doing underscores the importance of religion in his life and metaphorically the universe.
To its credit, the play makes Jewish traditions and habits seem almost everyday, yet highly noble.
Mike Rademaekers’ direction allows the actors the freedom to follow their instincts within the confines of the play.
It gives the proceedings a crisp, warm, free-flowing feel that only adds to the importance of the message.
Art Shulman is convincing, passionate and sincere as Rabbi Jacob Persky. This critic, who knows him only as a writer, was genuinely surprised and inspired by his confidence and vigor.
Rebecca Westberg, who plays Theresa Genovese, gives a realistic and richly textured performance as the shiksa. Her relaxed demeanor adds to her character’s believability and motivation.
Henry Holden (Maury Plotkin) is intense and spot-on as the rabbi’s major nemesis in a life-affirming portrait.
Sam Aaron (Al Goldbaum) gives a hilarious, honest and musical portrayal that leaves the audience laughing and clapping.
Ellen Bienenfeld (Hannah) is sensitive, compassionate and grounded as the rabbi’s receptionist.
All in all, The Rabbi and the Shiksa puts a new spin on an old story.
One rich in spirit, humanity and faith that does not lean on religious cliches or ardor to make its point.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday matinee at 2 p.m.,Secret Rose Theatre, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601
$22 general admission, $17 seniors, $10 students under 26 with student ID, $16 groups of 10 or more. Reservations and Information: 818-782-4254.