Written by Angela J. Davis. Directed by Lee Sankowich.
This quietly remarkable play marks the beginning of the Road Theatre’s 2019-2020 season.
The story turns around a family auctioning off their recently departed father/husband’s collection of ancient religious books and, in particular, a very rare prayer book written in Spanish.
Allan Wasserman and Allison Blaize
As the story unfolds of how the books came to be in the possession of the rabbi who has left them to his family to sell or keep or donate, we uncover layer upon layer of pain and loss and fear and history. Nothing is ever simple when it comes to religion and one man’s sacrifice can easily be mistook as another’s betrayal.
“The Spanish Prayer Book” is a fascinating piece of theatre and a story that could have been told just as easily I suppose in film or prose or even documentary. And yet it feels so perfectly formed for intimate theatre. It is, after all, all about looking deep inside oneself for answers and the theatre is absolutely the only place for that kind of honesty. The Road Theatre Company has a gift for subtle and important work. They pick their plays with such precision, compassions and love, you’ll forgive me if I say they sometimes appear to be heaven sent.
Amy Tolsky and Allison Blaize
“The Spanish Prayer Book” is about what it means to have faith. Faith in yourself, faith in your god, in your family and in your own deep seated belief in right and wrong. With humor and warmth and some pretty spectacular performances, the play ponders our own ability to do the right thing, to know it deeply and to follow our instincts and our hearts, even when it’s unpopular and difficult.
We all stumble though life trying not to do harm and hoping that we do well by ourselves, by those we love and everybody else we bump in to. But making actual choices that have nothing but an ethical impact on the world around us is something we are not often faced with…thankfully. What is ownership, how do we pass along our wisdom, who has the right to profit from…well…anything?
Allison Blaize and Richard John Seikaly
The philosophers over millennia have grappled with the really big stuff. We mere mortals have only our innate sense of what is right to guide us and that can be pretty hard to navigate these days. So it’s more important than ever to have these kinds of conversations. Giving ourself the right to have a moral compass. To know that all we have in the end is who we really are. Our soul, our fiber, our essence. That’s all that matters in the middle of the night when we wake with only ourselves for company.
This exquisite play, with its central characters all flawed and slightly broken – just like the rest of us – addresses our capacity for truth. It asks the question of belonging, of entitlement and of respect. As the auction of precious books smuggled out of war-torn Germany and kept safe by the son of the thief grows near, his daughter and his widow wonder how and why they can profit from this sale and if anyone should own such artifacts. Of course, artifacts are always owned in some way or another, whether by their creator, benefactor, church of country…isn’t it all the same?
Choosing to give rather than take is the ultimate test, is it not? Selflessness can be isolating and lonely, but it can also be revelatory and inspiring. These days we seem to be considering more and more the art of not doing something just because we can. This play has that conversation, hidden in amongst grief and loss and love. It’s utterly beautiful and elegant and profound and the performances are truly beguiling. It hops gently back and forth in time and plays with memory and familiar voices in our heads in such a delicate and finely wrought way that I found myself remembering my own father and feeling his presence and longing to hear his voice guide me as this daughter longs for hers.
Laura Gardner and Allison Blaize
The playwright. Angela J. Davis, drew inspiration from true events to write this play and I can’t help but wonder what fascinated her so about the original story. In any case, we should be grateful at her interest, because this marvelous and moving play touches on our most deeply held beliefs in love and in each other. A daughter yearns to make her father proud and, better yet, to truly know his heart when she felt so often undeserving of it. We can all connect with that, can’t we?
It’s a long enough run for you to have little excuse to miss it. You’ll regret it if you do!
Running September 20 through November 23, Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm
The Road Theatre on Magnolia, 10747 Magnolia Blvd, North Hollywood, 91601
The cast of “The Spanish Prayer Book” will feature (in alphabetical order): Allison Blaze, Laura Gardner, Carlos Lacamara, Richard-John Seikaly, Amy Tolsky, Allan Wasserman and Tiffany Wolff.
The Design Team for “The Spanish Prayer Book” is as follows: Scenic and Projection Design by Yuki Izumihara; Lighting Design by Derrick McDaniel; Sound Design by David B. Marling; Costume Design by Kate Bergh; Properties Design by Heath Harper; The Production Stage Manager is Maurie Gonzalez. “The Spanish Prayer Book” is produced by Laurie Bernhard/SPARK Theatrical and Zeljka Gortinski.