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Bubby’s Shadow: Whose Shadow Is It? (2012 Planet Connections Festivity)

by Stephen Tortora-Lee on June 21, 2012

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Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall, or maybe something even more ephemeral? Like a shadow? Bubby’s Shadow by Andrew Rothkin is a ghost story, but one where the living haunt those that have already passed on.

It starts, like many ghost stories, on a dark and stormy night.

There is a green glow of eyes, strange mystical chanting, crackling thunder and lightning and then . . .

We reenter the normal world again –  a house, though still draped in the shadows of a dark and stormy night where someone is knocking at the door. Nightgown-clad Debra (Rosie Cosch) comes to the door in an obvious state of alarm in response to the pounding and screaming of brother Jonny (playwright Andrew Rothkin).  Cosch as Debra does a great job conveying both annoyance as well as concern as she hears Jonny’s tale.

Apparently Jonny got a strange phone call which (Caller ID confirmed) came from Debra’s home but all he heard was strange wailing and muttering.  They both admit that they’ve been having dreams of their dear dead Bubby who raised them in that very house, but who has been dead for 19 years.

During their childhood their father was distant, so when their mother died Bubby, their larger-than-life grandmother, brought them joy and love and gave them all the support they could ever need.  She died in their late teens, leaving them feeling somewhat alienated with a disconnected father.  Their resentment toward him grew and Bubby’s set of memorabilia was stashed in the attic.

Now 19 years later Jonny is the workaholic, whose relationship with his wife is on the rocks because of his inability to express his emotions.  Debra is a single divorced mother to Cara, searching for Mr. Right to no avail.  Cara also becomes acquainted with her Great Grandmother Bubby through dreams.

In the morning we meet the friendly and spunky Cara who is up bright and early, having met up with her friend.  She arrives back home just in in time for the phone, which has been working strangely, to begin ringing bringing the ghost of Bubby on the scene.  For a moment Bubby and Cara talk simultaneously as Cara channels her long dead great grandmother.

This leads them to the attic and a mysterious box, the contents of which inspired the family to have Shabbat dinner since it happens to be Friday. Even though Debra and Jonny have not been very religious since they were little, with Cara’s strong insistence they decide that maybe all these portents are a good reason to follow through with this old tradition of their family. They decide to help Cara put together the dinner, and put on the clothes from the past to see what sort of Shabbat miracle might come to pass.

In the final scenes of the show we find out that Debra and Jonny’s long estranged Father (played by Jeffrey Farber) also got a call.  He arrives back at the home and brings with him a charming male nurse, Eli (played by a very genuine and friendly Isaac Elkiss) , who is “a very good boy” about Debra’s age.  Eli gives Cara some wonderful reasons to check out the great programs at her local JCC where he teaches karate.   He is very learned in Rabbinical writings as well as a freethinking spiritualist who has  looked into Buddhism, Kabbalah and many other interesting things because (he tells  Cara when no one else is around) he can sense ghosts too.  He confides that sometimes when people are angry or confused it can cause a darkness to be cast about that can be dangerous.

As the sun is setting they all sit down to a Shabbat dinner and a wind begins to rise.  For the first time Bubby is able to address the audience directly instead of cryptically and tells the two people who can hear her (Cara and Eli) that she should have left sooner, and not have been holding on so tightly.  It seems her desires might have soured their connection to the values she had once tried to nurture in them all and the resentment created this shadow.  She announces she will be moving on, but not before one more person would be returning which is Jonny’s wife Christine (played by J.J. Pyle).  A quick cathartic exchange seems to heal the breach between them and in a strong performance showcasing Pyle’s emotional range she goes from scared to mad, to bewildered to overjoyed very convincingly.  Though brief, Pyle’s time on stage comes at a climactic moment and packs quite a punch.
As Bubby fades into the darkness the play fades away as well and we realize that everything will probably be alright at last.
What’s a Shadow to you?  Whether it’s about the Living Shadow in Peter Pan, the Race of Shadows in Babylon 5, or the Shadow of ourselves (our Alter Ego) that Jung talked of, it is always an interesting trip to look at the twilight world that exists in in some way that is on the opposite side of our normal world of the light. The question we can ask of this play is: what type of Shadow is Bubby’s, and should we try to have more of that type of Shadow in our lives? The talmudic interpretation is probably the closest to the theme here, and the thought that the play leaves you with:

“Our days are as a shadow upon the earth.” (Divrei HaYamim-1 29:15) O, that our life would be as a shadow of a wall or that of a tree. Rather, it is as the shadow of a bird in flight above the ground. (Midrash Rabbah 96:2)

Pacing of  Bubby’s Shadow would be better served if more of the action emphasized Bubby, and if the mystery was illuminated a bit sooner.  However, overall this show is a touching tale steeped in Jewish culture which highlights the idea of how love can fix a damaged family.  Director Greg Cicchino delivered a smooth piece, subtle and thoughtful.  Bubby’s Shadow will pull at your heart strings, and leave you satisfied – spiritually and emotionally – after a nice Shabbat dinner.


Bubby’s Shadow
Benefiting: Jewish Social Services Hospice & Visiting Nurse Service of New York Hospice and Palliative Care
Produced by White Rabbit Theatre
Written by Andrew Rothkin
Directed by Greg Cicchino
$18 General Admission
$9.00 for Film/Music Participants
FREE for Theatre Festivity Participants
Sunday 6/3/12 – 12:00pm = Performance #1
Tuesday 6/5/12 – 4:00pm = Performance #2
Saturday 6/9/12 – 4:30pm = Performance #3
Friday 6/15/12 – 6:00pm = Performance #4
Sunday 6/17/12 – 11:00am = Performance #5
Tuesday 6/19/12 – 8:30pm = Performance #6
Wednesday 6/20/12 – 6:00pm = Performance #7
Saturday 6/23/12 – 7:00pm = Performance #8
Click here to purchase tickets
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