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A Comb and a Prayer Book

May 31, 2007

Comb and a Prayer Book
Ever since I was pregnant with my daughter, I cry at the drop of a hat. I cry during movie trailers and when I hear “Leader of the Pack.” So if I tell you that I cried while I watched A Comb and a Prayer Book at the PAC, it doesn’t mean much. Now let me tell you that my best friend, a big, grouchy Italian guy, cried his eyes out too.

A Comb and a Prayer Book is the incredibly moving, at times horrifying play that documents the true story of a Holocaust survivor. I tend to avoid plays because I dislike realtime acting–to me a performance, like a book, needs good editing to be the best it could be. A classmate of mine once said that a real play wouldn’t feel fake, and she was right. This was my first non-musical play since I saw Don’t Drink the Water at Cherokee High School close to 15 years ago, and so I’ll be the first to admit, it’s my first “real” play. Now I know what it’s like to be completely taken in by people on a stage.

The spare set highlighted what must have been appalling conditions. The cast members took on different roles–as members of Elizabeth Blum’s family and as Nazis–and at one point, Alison Eisenagel (second from right, above) broke the uniformity of the “Nazis” with a sneer that chilled my blood. It is truly a credit to her acting skills that Alison, herself Jewish, pulled this off so well.

Despite leaving feeling like I’d been put through the emotional wringer, I had no regrets about going. It was really flat-out amazing, with only the ending–which was as trite as an Afterschool Special–spoiling an otherwise gripping performance. When I tell you that I cried, I do not mean the same welling up of tears that happens when my daughter looks exceptionally pretty. I wept for Elizabeth Blum and what she was put through. I sobbed for her lost family.

Thank you.

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