New York and Connecticut theater reviews and news

Ethnic Theater - Jewish

La MaMa E.T.C., Manhattan

On the surface, playwright Shmuel Refael’s “Golgotha” would seem to be one more all-too-familiar Holocaust tale. It is the story of a Holocaust survivor riddled by guilt (at having survived) and, at the same time, his need to bear witness to those horrific events in his past. This survivor, once forced to labor in the crematorium at Auschwitz-Birkenau, had seen his wife and two children perish. Even if this tale were not unique, it would be worthy of repetition because the personal testimonies which make up Holocaust history need to be reiterated and shared with subsequent generations. “Never forget” is the watch-word.

But “Golgotha” is indeed unique in one respect--the ethnic background of its hero. This time around the victim is not one of the Ashkenazi Jews, whose history has been well-documented, but a Sephardic Jew of Greece. He comes from a population with a different culture and a different language (Ladino, with its mixture of Spanish and Hebrew). While the Ashkenazi Jews’ wholesale destruction has been well-memorialized, and appropriately so, the story of the Sephardic Jews and their fate has been sadly neglected. And now, at last, in “Golgotha,” Sephardic Jews receive their proper due.

The monodrama “Golgotha” deals with one Alberto Salvado, formerly of Thessalonika (or Salonika), Greece, and now of Tel Aviv. Salvado, an elderly, ailing man, anguishes over the past and recounts his own physical and emotional sufferings. At the same time he prepares to carry out a long-held dream. He will hold the torch at the annual Holocaust ceremony to be held at Yad Vashem.

Actor Victor Attar and his wife and director Geula Jeffet-Attar have brought the piece to life, first in Israel and now in New York at off-Broadway’s LaMaMa Theatre. In this one-man show, Attar gives a sensitive and moving portrayal of the anguished Salvado. Though his Israeli accent is heavy, every word comes across like a polished gem. The story rises and falls, like the waves of the sea, with comic and poignant moments, but is ultimately a triumph of the human spirit.

-- Irene Backalenick
Dec. 18, 2005

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