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A CurtainUp Review

Fine Me a Voice

If we did reviews with numbered or starred ratings and if those ratings were broken down into categories, Find Me a Voice would warrant a 10 for its directing and staging (SuzAnne Barabas) -- with a special + for topnotch production values within the constraints of a small space and budget. An equally high rating would go to the playwrights Gabor Barabas (who contributed the poetry) SuzAnne Barabas (dialogue). Their combined talents have turned a harsh subject into a linguistically lovely script which is further enriched by Merek Royce Press' original and evocative music. The cast of five, (in multiple roles), which includes a fourth grader and only one Equity member, give a creditable reading to the words and concept.

The harsh subject in search of a voice on the tiny stage of the Producer's Club is the Holocaust. The survivors who people the stage seek a voice not to make sense of their tragic stories (the victimization of the Jews during the Hitler era is a case that defies sense-making), but to affirm the existence of their lives and the continuation of their spirit.

In spite of its poetic script and fine staging, Find Me a Voice is not a play for everyone. It lacks an iconic heroine like the young girl in The Diary of Anne Frank or a plot line like Schoenes Maedel (two holocaust plays which immediately come to mind, especially the first which is scheduled for a new production this coming season). Except for two somewhat humorously and insistent ghost figures towards the end of the play, the characters move and talk throughout with tragic precision. In fact, this is basically a sensitive and at times surrealistic dramatized Kaddish with movement and music. This Jewish prayer for the dead is recited in full twoards the end of the evening.

The dramatic angle that propels this lament for the unjustly slain victims of prejudice and oppression is the crisis faced by a blocked writer (Christopher Casoria). His creative "constipation" is caused by characters (his dead relatives) who demand that he bring them to life with his typewriter. He feels he can't give them the voice they demand, yet he can't write about anything else. In real life, that writer is Gabor Barabas.. His own parents were Holocaust survivors but until he wrote the poetry that uplifts this play, his theatrical writing reolved around musicals. The writer is on stage typing and ripping up pages even as the audience enters the theater. With him on stage, also before the play begins, are some of the characters haunting him--at stage right a mother (Dorothy Kerr) and child (Elisha Joy Gordon) dramatic still life figures inside a large gold picture frame which is ingeniously transformed into a projection screen during the second act. In a darkened section at stage left, the almost invisible figure of a man with his back to the audience. The front of a stage is a jumble of old suitcases and shoes hinting at the loss of possession and life we will experience in the next two hours.

As indicated by the revisionist speaker (one of Christopher Casoria's five roles), this seminal evil of the current century can easily be lost as a statistical historic footnote if we cannot find a way to make others feel what it meant to be one of these statistics. Unfortunately, theater goers willing to listen to yet another mournful re-telling of sadly lost lives, no matter how sensitively dramatized, usually consists of those who know and believe it happened. And even amongst these there are those who'll protest "enough already" as they head for lighter theatrical fare. Couple this with the current tendency to by-pass serious drama of any kind, and the chances that Find Me a Voice will find a backer to take the current showcase production to a larger off-Broadway house and for a longer run are slim. Perhaps a shortened version (a half hour cut would not be unwarranted) could work for an expanded regional and college campus run.
By Garbor Barabas and SuzAnne Barabas
Original music by Merek Royce Press
Directed by >SuzAnne Barabas
With Marian Akana, Christopher Casoria, Elisha Joy Gordon, Dorothy Kerr, and Harlan Tuckman
Rabbit in the Moon at the New Producers Club
616 Ninth Ave (betw. 43 & 44th Sts)-- (212)353-4356
9/4/97 to 9/28/97 (opened 9/11)
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer, 9/15

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