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A Shayna Maidel
A Shayna Maidel

A Shayna Maidel
TimeLine Theatre Company
Thru - Dec 16, 2018

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TimeLine Theatre Company

  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune- Highly Recommended

"...It’s all in the script, to some degree, but there is no more effective aspect of this production than how it shows us the birth of sisterhood, starting from sadness, from scratch."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times- Highly Recommended

"...TimeLine Theatre’s “A Shayna Maidel” echoes with ghosts. Barbara Lebow’s drama plays out primarily in New York City shortly after the end of World War II, but the phantoms of the past are everywhere. Snippets of lullabies and screams, thundering hooves, shattered glass, laughter that sounds eerily like weeping create an audio scrim. It’s as elusive as ether, but casts a pall over everything that happens. Directed by Vanessa Stalling, TimeLine Theatre’s story of sisters separated by war is haunted."
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Catey Sullivan

Daily Herald- Recommended

"...Written in 1984, "A Shayna Maidel" -- which translates to "a pretty girl" -- is as current as the headlines describing the situation at our southern border. It's a story about grief and guilt, trauma and recovery and family members reconciling in the wake of inconceivable atrocities."
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Barbara Vietello

Chicago Reader- Somewhat Recommended

"...But Lebow also wants to make the pain go away. So much so that she gives her 1985 drama an unearned happy ending that depends, first, on a miraculous homecoming and, second, on a lightning-fast change of heart. Vanessa Stalling's often satisfying staging for TimeLine Theatre doesn't square this circle—and probably can't. There are two kinds of Holocaust narrative, after all: the kind, like Shoah, that sticks to the monstrous facts ("If you could lick my heart, it would poison you"), and the kind, like Schindler's List, that's committed to redemption. A Shayna Maidel is out for redemption."
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Tony Adler

Windy City Times- Recommended

"...As directed by Vanessa Stalling-who's really come into her own in the last two years-all the performers are effective and gain our empathy except Stransky, who's not supposed to be sympathetic. Still, the play lumbers along-not because it's boring but because its deliberate pace offers no resolution without the late plot surprises."
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Jonathan Abarbanel

Time Out Chicago- Recommended

"...A Shayna Maidel begins with with birth of a child during a pogrom in 19th-century Poland. Someone observes that the baby, named Mordechai, already knows not to cry—a survival instinct that the rest of the play interrogates. Barbara Lebow’s 1984 drama, which deals with transgenerational conflict in the aftermath of the Holocaust, is keenly aware of how survival instincts beget survivors’ guilt, sometimes with reason."
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Alex Huntsberger

Stage and Cinema- Recommended

"...The systematic slaughter of the Third Reich’s dozen years puts every subsequent moment of quiet kindness and hard-fought happiness in a searing perspective. But equally persistent is our dogged human nature: We want to believe — because the alternative is unthinkable — that good can come from evil. For what it’s worth — and that’s surprisingly much after 140 minutes — that happens to one shayna maidel."
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Lawrence Bommer

Around The Town Chicago- Highly Recommended

"...Your sister is your sister forever. There's all that history, after all. But what if you and your sister didn't grow up together? What if you were separated - by distance and then by the war? How do you build sisterhood? In Barbara Lebow's moving play, "A Shayna Maidel", the war is over and two sisters, one growing up safely in Brooklyn, the other surviving the horrors of the Holocaust in Poland, must try to find a way to connect. By the way, a shayna maidel is a pretty girl."
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Carol Moore

NewCity Chicago- Recommended

"...While the script doesn’t fully come together, Stalling’s production is powerful and well worth seeing. This is absolutely the sort of work that we need to champion. Lebow’s heartfelt story is unique on Chicago stages and Stalling has guided her team to affecting, engaging and memorable success."
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Erin Shea Brady

Chicago Theatre Review- Highly Recommended

"...This play, an auspicious opening of TimeLine’s 22nd season, is guided by Vanessa Stalling, a director known for her poignant, Jeff Award-winning productions all over Chicago. It speaks well of this theatre company that every cast member, as well as the director, are making their TimeLine debuts. Ms. Stalling has infused her presentation with life, authentic humanity and unpretentious sensitivity. It’s impossible not to become engaged in this brilliant production without finding empathy with every character. That’s the gift that Ms. Stalling brings to theatergoers: she brings Barbara Lebow’s impressive, inspirational play to Chicago, and makes it feel timely and brand new once again."
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Colin Douglas

Chicagoland Theater Reviews- Highly Recommended

"...Whenever there is a production this sensitive and moving, the audience can look to the director for commendation. Vanessa Stalling gets the props for orchestrating a staging that clearly presents a narrative that switches back and forth in time and place. There is no emotional manipulation in Stallings’ staging but plenty of truth and honesty. The second act does lurch a bit in reaching repeated emotional climaxes, but that’s on the author and not the director."
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Dan Zeff

The Fourth Walsh- Highly Recommended

"...Lebow’s story pieces together the past and the present. The Weiss family searches for understanding, forgiveness and love in the aftermath of a genocide. Although the holocaust is ever-present, an exchange about lists is particularly heart-wrenching, this play is about what happened to a pretty girl. And her story is powerful. A SHAYNA MAIDEL is like sitting in the living room of an estranged family and watching as they learn how to be a family again. Survivor’s guilt and hope is equally palpable."
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Katy Walsh

Third Coast Review- Highly Recommended

"...A Shayna Maidel (Yiddish for a pretty girl) is skillfully directed by Vanessa Stalling, with careful attention to the present turmoils and wrenching memories of the main characters. Mordecai Weiss (Charles Stransky) and his 4-year-old daughter Rose left Poland before the Nazi takeover of Europe, leaving behind Mama and older sister Lusia. Mama, like most European Jews who were not able to leave, did not survive. The survivors and their relatives found it difficult to reunite."
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Nancy Bishop

The Hawk Chicago- Highly Recommended

"...Yet the play's overall themes and the cast's performances are ones which resonate long after leaving the theatre. You'll leave contemplating life's near-misses. You'll leave grappling with immigration policies, those that separate families, likes our characters', 'temporarily.' You'll leave hearing the echoes of your ancestors and questioning the significance of where, with whom, and with what resources one is raised. You'll leave asking yourself what's most important to you, what you would save and hold on to if the world around you ever crumbled. It's, as the best productions are, an experience with lasting effects."
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Emily Schmidt

Chicago Theater and Arts- Highly Recommended

"...The six member cast is stellar. But Emily Berman as Lusia steals the show exhibiting two different personalities as a happy newlywed before the war and a scarred and flawed survivor afterwards."
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Mira Temkin

Chicago On Stage- Highly Recommended

"...In an era when Nazis and white supremacists have gained influence in American culture and politics, when more than 20% of Millennials have no clue what the Holocaust was and a not insignificant number deny it ever happened, when we are adopting a hard-line policy on immigration that targets specific groups of people and even rips children from their mothers’ arms, it seems on the surface that the lessons learned from World War II have faded from the forefront of our joint understanding. How fitting, then, that Timeline Theatre has chosen to revive the 1984 drama A Shayna Maidel, which serves as a reminder both of the devastation that faced European Jews in the 30s and 40s and that these horrors did not happen to faceless people; they happened to families."
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Karen Topham

Picture This Post- Recommended

"...Despite the uneven storytelling, A SHAYNA MAIDEL delivers some deeply affecting moments. And anyone seeking a play in which sensitive women grapple with major issues will find substance in Rose and Lusia’s emerging relationship. Together, they make up for what their father has missed amid the bounty of America: taking two pieces of bread and relishing the sandwich of life."
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Susan Lieberman