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Theatre review: A Splintered Soul at the International City Theatre

Photo+by+Tracey+Roman%0AFrom+left+to+right%3A+Actors+Brandon+Root%2C+Quinn+Francis%2C+Jon+Weinberg%2C+Stephen+Rockwell%2C+Louis+Lotorto%2C+Allison+Blaize+and+Nathan+Mohebbi+on+the+set+of+A+Splintered+Soul.
Photo by Tracey Roman
From left to right: Actors Brandon Root, Quinn Francis, Jon Weinberg, Stephen Rockwell, Louis Lotorto, Allison Blaize and Nathan Mohebbi on the set of A Splintered Soul.

Photo by Tracey Roman From left to right: Actors Brandon Root, Quinn Francis, Jon Weinberg, Stephen Rockwell, Louis Lotorto, Allison Blaize and Nathan Mohebbi on the set of A Splintered Soul.

Photo by Tracey Roman From left to right: Actors Brandon Root, Quinn Francis, Jon Weinberg, Stephen Rockwell, Louis Lotorto, Allison Blaize and Nathan Mohebbi on the set of A Splintered Soul.

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Nothing less than mastery could be expected from an International City Theatre (ICT) production, and A Splintered Soul, written by Alan L. Brooks and directed by Marya Mazor, is no exception. This production is a win for the entire creative team, from lights and sound, to props and costumes– and a huge success for casting director Michael Donovan.

From the piercing dialogue riddled with themes that still resonate today, to the intense detail of the staging that puts the audience (literally) toe-to-toe with the footprint of one of history’s darkest periods, the drama that unfolds will undoubtedly follow you home and weigh on your world view.

A Splintered Soul argues that the “real” victims of the Holocaust are the survivors. Tragic hero Rabbi Simon Kroeller insists on this point from the play’s primary setting of his small, San Francisco apartment in 1947, as he struggles to reconcile with himself the rights and the wrongs of his own actions during the war when survival– damn the cost– was all that mattered.

In a heart-wrenching performance by actor Stephen Rockwell, Kroeller deals with some of the biggest and unanswered questions of mankind: What is my purpose? Why am I here? Who defines the gray area between right and wrong? If God exists, then where is He?

Kroeller finds himself at the center of a small circle of survivors who are new to America and struggling to integrate into American society and its built-in, black-and-white moral and legal code.
The cohort of Jewish survivors includes: actress Allison Blaize, who is unforgettable as Gerta and challenges the audience to consider forgiving clear violations of a standard moral code; actor Nathan Mohebbi, who gives a moving performance as Mordechi, representing the soul nearly broken, but renewed in love; actress Quinn Francis, who plays Elisa with one of the most consistent and sophisticated Polish accents in the production; and actor Brandon Root, whose emotionally unbalanced performance as Harold is compromised by a limited Polish accent.

Jon Weinberg plays both Sol, an angry survivor, utterly unrecoverable from the trauma of the Holocaust, and Leo, a gentle American man whose loss of a loved one is instrumental in comparing the lives and emotional thresholds of the survivor community and the American Jewish community. Weinberg expertly brings to life two sides of one coin and wins the audience’s favor for both.

Actress Madeleine Falk plays Countess Minassi, Sarah and Sadie. Her best performance is in that of Sadie– American wife to Leo and unsympathetic host family for Gerta. It is no small task to bring three characters to life, and in so doing, Falk successfully serves as a common female thread from the voice of Sarah from the afterlife, to the heroic Countess Minassi, who answers all of Kroeller’s and the audience’s questions in a few short moments as the play concludes.

The burden of defending the uninformed American community trying to do right by the survivors falls solely on Judge Martin Levinsky, played by top-notch actor Louis A. Lotorto. Lotorto’s performance is precise and explosive– perfectly measured to balance the magnitude of his fellow cast members so that every role seems to revolve around him at one point or another.

There is no easy way to deal with the painful themes of the Holocaust that still haunt us today, and A Splintered Soul beautifully and painfully tackles a lens rarely discussed. This is an absolute must-see for the Long Beach area, which has long been home to a large Jewish community, including many survivors.

The juxtaposition of the American community trying and failing to help survivors thrive in an entirely new world versus the survivors who struggle to move past the horrors they endured is a thoughtful approach to preserving all facets of the impact the Holocaust had and continues to have across generations of survivors and their loved ones.

A Splintered Soul continues at the ICT in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 330 E. Seaside Wy., with shows Thursday to Sunday until Nov. 4. Thursday-to-Saturday performances are at 8pm, and Sunday showings are at 2pm. Tickets range from $47 to $49. More information is available at internationalcitytheatre.org.

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Theatre review: A Splintered Soul at the International City Theatre