Playwright Lisa Beth Allen calls into question the nature of conflict, identity, faith and truth in her drama "Solomon's Blade."
In Allen's play, Tamar Greenwold — devoted to her Jewish faith — is called to a hospital to find her sister-in-law brain-dead, on life support and seven and a half months pregnant. Arrangements are made by Greenwold's close friend and attorney. Kristin Joseph. to have an Israeli immigrant adopt the child. Greenwold is thrilled — until she discovers the mother-to-be, named Sahrrah Shouman, is Arab-Israeli. Meanwhile Hannah, Greewold's 8-year-old daughter who is gifted with a wisdom only a child can have, has become attached to the unborn child. To stop the disagreements between the adults, she hatches a plan with potentially deadly consequences.
“Approached with great humor and humanity, 'Solomon’s Blade' speaks to anyone who has ever looked in the mirror and seen a stranger,” according to Dramatists Guild.
Allen's play was selected for a reading at the 2004 Ashland New Plays Festival, and Camelot Theatre will present its premiere stage production.
“I was haunted by this play when I first saw it at the Ashland New Plays Festival," says director Livia Genise in a press release. "It was so poignant and timely. It is even more timely now in this twilight zone of a political season. But it’s not only politically that we tend to demonize those different from us. We do it everyday. And theater, for decades, has commented on it.
"Look at Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s 'South Pacific' with the brilliant song 'You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught,' and in Steven Dietz’ 'God’s Country,' where a father bemoans his admonitions to his son not to let ‘those people’ cheat him, which leads to his son’s taking part in the murder of a Jewish talk show host Alan Berg. Even Stephen Sondheim warns his audience in 'Into the Woods,' ‘Careful the things you say, children will listen.’ This time, author Lisa Beth Allen has lovingly relayed the message that we can change fear to compassion. We can choose to see the person, not the other. We can then look at the person and choose whether or not to make it personal," Genise says. "If we, individually and as a country and ultimately as a world, can make that leap of faith, what could we not achieve?”
"Solomon's Blade" previews Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 3 and 4, opens Friday, Feb. 5, and runs through Sunday, Feb 28, at the community theater, 101 Talent Ave., Talent. The Feb. 3 performance is a fundraiser for The Rose Circle Mentoring Network. Tickets for this show are $25 and can be purchased only at Paddington Station, 125 E. Main St., Ashland. Tickets for the Feb. 4 preview are $14 and include an open discussion with the playwright, cast and director after the show. A pay-what-you-can show will be offered Wednesday, Feb. 10.
Curtain is at 8 p.m. for the Feb. 3 fundraiser and shows are set for Thursdays through Saturdays, Feb. 4-6, 11-13, 18-20 and 25-27. Matinees are are 2 p.m. Sundays, Feb. 7, 14, 21 and 28. Tickets are $29, $27 for students and seniors (excluding Sunday matinees. Tickets and information online at camelottheatre.org or by calling 541-535-5250. Reserved seating is available for an additional $2 per ticket. Student rush tickets cost $10 and can be purchased 10 minutes before curtain, except Sundays.
A member of Dramatists Guild, Allen holds a bachelor of arts (music and theater performance) from Case Western Reserve University and a master's of fine arts in theater with an emphasis in playwriting from the University of New Orleans. Her plays have been performed at the Florida Studio Theatre in Sarasota, Fla.; South Coast Repertory in Orange County, Calif.; The Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia; The Organic Theatre in Chicago; and at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah, as well as on the King Stage at the Sundance Resort.
"Have a Heart," Allen's master's thesis play, won the 2010 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival's Jean Kennedy Smith Award. "Solomon’s Blade" was read at the 2005 Women at the Door Festival of New Plays in Chicago, in 2007 at the Cleveland Play House FusionFest, winning the Dorothy Silver Playwriting Competition, and as part of the 2012 Great Plains Theatre Festival PlayLab Series. Theatre West of Los Angeles presented a staged reading of "Solomon’s Blade" in June 2013.
Allens' inspiration for "Solomon's Blade" grew out of a conversation between her and a family member. She says, in a press release, that she was "astonished by the impenetrable certitude the individual used to argue her perspective. No evidence, emotional or empirical, was able to dent her resolve. So I asked myself, what it would take to break through her fortress? What set of events would force a character like this to understand another's point of view? While the overt conflict in this piece is depicted as prejudice explored through the lens of Arab-Israeli discord, self-knowledge is revealed to be the larger theme."
Under Genise's direction, Camelot's production of "Solomon's Blade" stars Rose Passione as Greenwold, Renee Hewitt as lawyer Joseph, Stephanie Jones as Shouman, Roy Von Rains Jr. as the doctor Amahr Reddy, Rigo Jimenez as nurse Estaban Borrego, Elizabeth Marie as Claire Green, Madison Garren as Hannah Greenwold and — alternating in the role of Michelle Greenwold — are Aubrey Campbell and Sierra Milburn.
Don Zastoupil is set designer, Brian O'Connor is sound and video designer, lighting is by Katie Tanaka and costumes are by Addy Hall-Kester.