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By Alissa Schacter

Witty wordplay provides lots of laughs in world premier performance

“I’m not your letter to the world. I’m a real person”, says Rebecca to her father, Harry as she attempts to get him to accept her decision to move from New York to Winnipeg to live with her non-Jewish boyfriend. She has a hard time of it in ``Some Things You Keep” by New York transplant Alix Sobler, who now makes Winnipeg home. The play, commissioned by the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre in 2007, is a laugh out loud funny and profoundly incisive exploration of the deep-rooted expectations parents have of their adult children, and of how relationships change when a family member dies.
The story, loosely based on Sobler’s own life, begins when Rebecca (played by Sobler), a twenty-seven year old Jewish writer, receives an inaugural visit from her father Harry (Daniel Kash) to the Winnipeg apartment she shares with her Mennonite boyfriend.  Harry has come from New York to bring Rebecca her late mother’s wedding ring.  His early arrival catches Rebecca unprepared and sets the tone for a visit that quickly falls off the rails.  Rebecca wants to showcase the life she has made for herself to its best advantage, but her father casually surveys her home, determined to find ammunition to undermine her.  Harry manages to find fault in every decision Rebecca has made since leaving New York, from her choice of a pet, to her decision to leave the city everyone wants to live in for a “one horse town”, and her non-Jewish, non-upwardly mobile boyfriend.      

In what feels like a well rehearsed tango, the tension between daughter and father repeatedly simmers to a boil, followed by a dénouement of light banter, offering welcome comic relief.   The play treads on some well worn ground when dealing with Harry`s disapproval of Rebecca dating a non- Jew, however the humour always feels fresh.  As the play progresses, the stakes rise.  Rebecca and Harry circle in on each other until they strike at the real issue between them: the death of Rebecca’s mother and its aftermath.

The two person cast of Sobler and Kash skilfully create a repartee that resembles a verbal jousting match.  They exchange a series of sharp, well-aimed jibes one moment and casually laugh and joke with each other the next.    Rebecca alternates between being an independent young woman who knows her mind, and an adult- child who still badly wants her father to understand and accept her.   Sobler ably captures this dichotomy.  Kash, who appeared at Manitoba Theatre Centre in “The Constant Wife” in 2006/07, delivers a strong performance as the self-assured Harry and shows impeccable comic timing throughout the ninety minute performance.  The actors convincingly navigate an array of powerful and conflicting needs and emotions that, woven together, form the resilient fabric of filial relations.      

The entire play is set in Rebecca's living room.  Director Chris Sigurdson makes effective use of the set and the dialogue is tight and well paced.

The effect of the loss of a loved one;  the challenge of carving out an identity independent from one’s parent; the juxtaposition of youthful idealism and middle age practicality.  These are weighty issues, but Sobler handles them deftly and with humour.   “Some Things You Keep” is a highly entertaining, well-mounted show, ending The Winnipeg Jewish Theatre’s current season on a high note.

“Some Things You Keep” runs through May 9 at the Berney Theatre.  Tickets are $28, $25 for seniors and $12 for students.  The production is ninety minutes long and there is no intermission.  

Alissa Schacter is a former lawyer who recently gave up her career in economic development and policy to pursue her in interest in writing.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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