A Shayna Maidel Review – Powerful, Poignant and Relevant

Lusia (Emily Berman, left) and Rose (Bri Sudia) are two sisters trying to reconnect after years of separation brought on by the rise of the Nazis. Photo by Lara Goetsch
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TimeLine Theatre Company launches its 22nd season with the revival of A Shayna Maidel, Barbara Lebow’s moving family drama about two sisters reunited after years of separation caused by the rise of the Nazis. Performances run through November 4 (extended to December 16) at TimeLine Theatre, 615 W. Wellington Ave., Chicago. This is a must see production. I have heard several people indicate, “enough with the Holocaust” but this production transcends the expected approach, and digs deep into interactions between family members, and examines their roles. The performance is beautiful and poignant.

Lusia (Emily Berman, left) and her father Mordechai (Charles Stransky, center) share information about what happened to members of their family during World War II with Lusia’s sister Rose (Bri Sudia, right). Photo by Lara Goetsch

This play is as important today as it was when it was first performed in 1984. It is a perfect fit for the TimeLine mission which is to make connections between past and present, especially because “A Shayna Maidel under-scores how vital it is to better comprehend history in order to best inform our future. Even as conspiracy theories still linger about the truth of the Holocaust, a disturbing report released in April revealed that 22 percent of American millennials haven’t heard of, or aren’t sure if they’ve heard of, the Holocaust. The survey also revealed that 58 percent of Americans believe that something like the Holocaust could happen again, and that 68 percent believe that anti-Semitism is present in America today. Fifty-one percent say there are “many” or “a great deal of” neo-Nazis in the U.S. today”.

Lusia (Emily Berman) dreams of her husband Duvid (Alex Stein), whose fate she does not know since they were separated during World War II. Photo by Lara Goetsch

Entering the theatre, I immediately felt drawn in to the story, largely due to the intimacy of the seating and the familiarity of the set. Once the performance began I was pulled in even more with familiarity of the characters who were fleshed out with skill and nuance. The story of the two sisters whose father found his long lost older daughter in Europe didn’t seem earthshaking, but it becomes so in this production.

Lusia (Emily Berman, center) stands with her sister Rose (Bri Sudia, right) and speaks with her father Mordechai (Charles Stransky, left) for the first time in many years. Photo by Lara Goetsch

Beginning with Playwright Barbara Lebow’s script, this original production under the sensitive direction of Vanessa Stalling,( this being her first time at TimeLine), to the skill of the actors who brought depth and feeling to their characters, this performance  flew by leaving me with so much to think about.

Sisters Lusia (Emily Berman, left) and Rose (Bri Sudia, right) and father Mordechai (Charles Stransky) struggle to reconnect as they think back on Mama (Carin Schapiro Silkaitis, top left) and their lives in Poland before …
Photo by Lara Goetsch

The details that increased the impact of the entire production included the outstanding special effects in sound and lighting that effectively conveyed moments of dreaming or thinking, the costumes, and the set. From there the outstanding performances of the actors took it away. In every gesture, movement, speech pattern, and emotion, Emily Berman WAS Lucia. Charles Stransky as Mordechai Weiss, The father of the two sisters was convincing as a distanced and strict male, not unlike men I have observed. Bri Sudia is Rose Weiss (until October 21), the sister who was separated from her mother and brought to the US with her father, is this extremely complex and surprising woman.

Bri Sudia (foreground) portrays Rose and Emily Berman portrays Lusia—two sisters trying to reconnect after years of separation brought on by the rise of the Nazis—in TimeLine Theatre’s production of A Shayna Maidel by Barbara Lebow… Photo by Adam Blaszkiewicz

I have heard the words “shayna maidel” and understood them to mean, “pretty girl”. By the time I left this performance, I was surprised at the range of meanings this took on.  This production will be here until November 4, but don’t let it get away. It is really good.

This revival of A Shayna Maidel features Emily Berman (she/her) as Lusia and Bri Sudia (she/her) as Rose. The cast also includes Carin Schapiro Silkaitis as Mama (she/her), Alex Stein as Duvid (he/him), Charles Stransky as Mordechai (he/him) and Sarah Wisterman as Hanna (she/her). Note: Carin Schapiro Silkaitis steps in for Hanna Dworkin, originally announced as Mama.

Lusia (Emily Berman, left) and Rose (Bri Sudia) are two sisters trying to reconnect after years of separation brought on by the rise of the Nazis. Photo by Lara Goetsch

The production team includes TimeLine Associate Artist Collette Pollard (Scenic Designer, she/her); Samantha C. Jones (Costume Designer, she/her); Rachel K. Levy (Lighting Designer, she/her); Jeffrey Levin (Sound Designer and Composer, he/him); Elise Kauzlaric (Dialect Designer, she/her); and Deborah Blumenthal (Dramaturg, she/her).

Information about the performance and tickets can be found on the timelinetheatre website or call the TimeLine Box Office at (773) 281-8463 x6.


—    Post-Show Discussions: A brief, informal post-show discussion hosted by a TimeLine Company Member and featuring the production dramaturg and members of the cast on Wednesday, September 5; Thursday September 13; Sunday, September 16; Thursday, October 11; Sunday, October 14; and Wednesday, October 17.

—    Pre-Show Discussions: Starting one hour before these performances, a 30-minute introductory conversation hosted by a TimeLine Company Member and the production dramaturg on Sunday, September 30, and Wednesday, October 3.

—    Company Member Discussion: A post-show discussion with the collaborative team of artists who choose TimeLine’s programming and guide the company’s mission on Sunday, September 23.

—    Captioned Performance: An open-captioned performance with a text display of words and sounds heard during the performance on Saturday, September 29 at 4 p.m.

—    Sunday Scholars Panel Discussion: A one-hour post-show discussion featuring experts on the themes and issues of the play on Sunday, October 7.


All discussions are free and open to the public. For further details about all planned discussions and events, visit timelinetheatre website.






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