The play, a finalist at the Humana Festival and winner of a 2001 Berrilla Kerr Grant, is set on the Lower East Side in 1930. Lillian, a former star of the Yiddish Theater (or so she says) has lived for many years with her lover Jake in a top floor flat of a brownstone. Across the hall, Levy, a refugee from the Russian Pale, lives in a room alone and isolated. All of his family lost in a pogrom, he has shut himself off from the world. When the play begins Lillian stands in her empty front room. With the sudden death of Jake, who has failed to make any provision for them, she now finds herself and their teenage son, Yidl, destitute. Obliged to live off the charity of distant relatives, they are about to leave the only home they've known. Church bells begin to ring the hour. Desperately playing for time she makes tea for her son, and in her cup, she pours an overdose of laudanum. Soon Yidl will begin a frantic pounding on Levy's door. A door he has never opened to anyone.
The play, then, is how the mother and son's visit opens the door to the old man's heart and how the boy, silently suffering from his mother's tragic turn of events, finds his voice. HB Playwrights Foundation mounted the play last January, directed by Austin Pendleton. Reviews are not cultivated by HB Playwrights Foundation, but letters swarmed in attesting to the beauty and power of the piece. One testified, "I loved this play. A story of family and the complex relationship between Mother and Son. A story of loss and its effects, a story of different kinds of courage and fortitude, a story of a time and culture that today's society should not forget." Others called the play "absolutely extraordinary…the best thing I've seen in years…an incredible play…heartbreaking and beautiful."
Audiences are accustomed to plays about Jews on the Lower East Side having the veracity of real stories, since so many are based on actual history. This one has the resonance of history, but the power of fancy. The author testifies that the play is part dream part imagination and a little family history.
Ms. Eda-Young will appear at La MaMa in the title role. Levy, the neighbor, will be played by Broadway veteran Ben Hammer and Yidl will be played by John Magaro.
Barbara Eda-Young began acting Off-off-Broadway as Velma Sparrow in the original production of Leonard Melfi's "Birdbath" at Theater Genesis, St. Marks Church-in-the-Bowery. She went on to create roles in over 20 new plays at Theater Genesis and La MaMa. Among her La MaMa productions were the extravaganza "Won Ton Soup," "Come Dog Come Night" by Bernard-Marie Koltes (which led to the founding of Ubu Repertory Theater) and a revival of "Birdbath" with her original co-star, Kevin O'Connor. She moved from Off-off-Broadway to Lincoln Center, starring in Sam Shepard's "Operation Sidewinder." She appeared in the famed Lincoln Center Repertory Company for two seasons, performing in "Camino Real" with Al Pacino and "Kool Aid" with Robert DeNiro, among others. She starred at Lincoln Center, on Broadway and at the Kennedy Center (in Washington, DC) as Stella in "A Streetcar Named Desire."
Her many other Broadway and Off-Broadway credits include "Death of a Salesman" with Brian Dennehy, "Drinks Before Dinner" with Christopher Plummer, written by E. L. Doctorow and directed by Mike Nichols; "Trueblinka" by Adam Rapp, "The Two Character Play" by Tennessee Williams with Austin Pendleton, and "The Hawk," an improvisational play. She won an Obie for her performance of Mrs. Domik in Tony Kushner's "Slavs."
Her regional theater credits include "A Fair Country" by Jon Robin Baitz at Steppenwolf Theater and various productions at Williamstown Theater Festival including "After the Fall," "the Three Sisters," Orpheus Descending, " A Touch of the Poet" and The American Clock." She played Bananas in "The House of Blue Leaves" at the Cleveland Playhouse and its subsequent East European tour. She recently recreated the role of Rose in "The American Clock" at HB Theater.
Her on-camera credits include "Serpico" with Al Pacino, "Talk to Me" with Austin Pendleton, "Law & Order," "L.A. Law" and "The Murder of Mary Phagan" starring Jack Lemmon.
The plays by Ms. Eda-Young include "Nobody" (1992), "Chain Chain Angel Angel" (1996) and Lillian Yuralia." All have been finalists at The Humana Festival. A fourth play is nearing completion as of this writing.
Ben Hammer (Levy) made his Broadway debut with the Lunts in "The Great Sebastians." His distinguished Broadway career also includes "The Diary of Anne Frank," directed by Garson Kanin; "The Tenth Man," directed by Tyrone Guthrie; "Mother Courage" starring Anne Bancroft, directed by Jerome Robbins; "Golda," again with Anne Bancroft, directed by Arthur Penn; "The Royal Hunt of the Sun" with Christopher Plummer; and Neil Simon's "Broadway Bound," directedby Gene Saks. At Lincoln Center, he appeared in "In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer" and "The Crucible." His Off-Broadway productions include "Slavs," "The Golem," The Madwoman of Chaillot," "More Stately Mansions" and "The Gathering." In regional theater, he has appeared at the Mark Taper Forum, Denver Center, Philadelphia Theatre Company, George Street Playhouse and GEVA, among others. His films include "Sleepers," "Crazy People," "The Jagged Edge," "The Beatsmaster," "Zabreskie Point" and "Analyze That." His TV appearances include "The Execution of Pvt. Slovick," "Winds of War," "Raid on Entebbe," Law & Order," "Ed," "Cagney and Lacey" and "Kojack."
John Magaro (Yidl) has been seen at The Cleveland Playhouse, The Pittsburgh Playhouse, The New Theatre, Southern Rep., Porthouse Theatre, and Pittsburgh's City Theatre, where he originated the role of White Steve in Adam Rapp's "Gompers." He made his feature film debut last fall in Neil Jordan's "The Brave One" opposite Jodie Foster and Terrence Howard. He was seen earlier this year in Vadim Perelman's "Life Before Her Eyes." Upcoming films include "The Box," "Assassination of a High School President," "Taking Chance," "25/8" and "Kiddie Ride." On TV, he has appeared in "Law and Order" and "Conviction." He recently appeared in the workshop production of New George's "Stretch at the Ohio Theatre." This production is his NYC stage debut.
Austin Pendleton (Director) has directed in New York on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-off-Broadway. On Broadway three of his productions -- the revival with Elizabeth Taylor of "The Little Foxes," the premiere of Michael Weller's "Spoils of War" with Kate Nelligan, and the premiere of the musical "Shelter" by Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford with Marcia Rodd -- have been Tony nominated. His production of Milan Stitt's "The Runner Stumbles" ran for several months and led to many other productions of the play across the country. This fall, he is directing Michael Weller's new play, "Fifty Words," with Elizabeth Marvel for the Manhattan Class Company.
Mr. Pendleton has also directed six productions at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre, where he is also a member of the Acting Ensemble, and he directed for many years at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, where he apprenticed and began directing at the suggestion of its Artistic Director Nikos Psacharopoulos. He has also directed at the Long Wharf, the Kennedy Center and many other regional theaters. His acting career includes On, Off and Off-Off Broadway, in all the theaters listed above, as well as at the Abingdon Theatre, where he recently played in Bruce Robinson's "Another Vermeer" and will next spring appear in Romulus Linney's new play, "Love Drunk." He has acted in about eighty movies and many times on such TV shows as "Law and Order," "Homicide," "Oz," "Frazier" and "Miami Vice." He is also a playwright, all three of whose plays have been published and produced in New York: "Orson's Shadow," "Uncle Bob" (which has also been produced internationally and in translation) and "Booth," which in New York starred Frank Langella. He teaches acting at New York's HB Studio and directing at the New School of Drama.