The West Boca Theater Company is currently presenting Naomi Ragen’s 2001 drama, "Women’s Minyan" at the Levis JCC Phyllis and Harvey Sandler Center for Jewish Life Enhancement.
This beautifully written play explores spousal abuse and custody laws in the ultra-Orthodox Haredi community of Israel. This drama ran for six years in its initial production in Habima, the National Theater of Israel, as well as having several successful productions in The U.S. and Canada.
Chana Sheinhoff, after suffering years of abuse, leaves her husband and her twelve children and goes to live with her friend Zehava. The main action takes places two years later when Chana tries to visit her children.
The women of her former family, her two eldest daughters and two neighboring women conspire to keep Chana from seeing her children, believing that she is an evil woman as the Rabbis have told them. Chana asks these women to listen to her side of the story and sit in judgment of her rights to see her children.
This emotionally charged drama has moments of humor as well as touching scenes that leave the audience in tears. Director Shari Upbin deftly guided the cast of 10 women through this complex piece of theater.
The entire cast gave powerful performances in their roles, working seamlessly together as a company. Each and every portrayal was perfectly balanced against everyone else on the stage and all of the actresses shone in this production.
Jamie Libbert-Smith played Chana Sheinhoff supported by Margo Gellert (Shaine Ruth) and Marty Stucchi (Bluma) as the two daughters. Renee Rogoff (Frume Kashman) and Blanca Bassion (Goldie Sheinhoff) were outstanding as Chana’s mother and mother-in-law. Clelia Patrizio, playing Chana’s sister-in-law Adina Sheinhoff, had to manage the difficult task of maintaining a stutter for her character on stage and she accomplished this admirably.
Merry Jo Cortada was excellent as Chana’s jealous sister, Gitte Leah. Gail Byer and Fern Katz played the nosy neighbors, Eta and Tovah, and Elli Murray completed the cast as Chana’s friend Zehava.
The production also featured violinist Kaitlin Richardson and clarinetist Stojo Miserlioski who provided the background music for the drama.
Women’s Minyan is a long drama running 2 hours and 30 minutes with a 15-minute intermission, but the performance is never slow. Director Upbin keeps the pacing brisk and the actor’s performances are riveting. This is theater at its best.