(music: Prokofiev’s Overture on Hebrew Themes)
“The Immigrant” by Mark Harelick is a touchingly funny and dramatic family story of a Jew who escaped the persecution in Russia in 1909 to reach America, the land of opportunity. Haskell Harlik crossed the sea to Galveston and from there pitifully peddled his way to a tiny, Baptist, Texas town. There Haskell was befriended by an older couple. With his incredible hard work and their support, he progressed from a cart, to a wagon and to the opening of his own store. Haskell is able to send for his wife, raise a family and make this small town his home.
“The Immigrant” has only four characters and the IRT has assembled a very fine and balanced quartet. The actor cast as Haskell has to play him all the way from the frightened Yiddish speaking cart puller of 1909 to the confident fluent storeowner of 1942. Brad Malow was wonderfully sympathetic and yet three dimensional in every part of Haskell’s development
Kathryn Petersen and Mark Goetzinger played the older couple. Petersen was delightful as she portrayed Ima Perry’s intelligence, warmth and comic struggles with Haskell’s Yiddish. Goetzinger, as the crusty banker Milton Perry, was a wonderful counterbalance anchoring and expanding many of the scenes. Lauren Lovett played the difficult role of Haskell’s wife, Leah. Leah not only has to struggle with Texas, but with the Haskell that Texas has nurtured.
The direction by James Still was fluid with never a false note. Russell Metheny’s open stage with Michael Lincoln’s lighting freed the drama to unfold. The costumes by Kathleen Egan are very much key features of their characters. “The Immigrant” by Mark Harelick is based on the real story of his grandfather, Haskell. The IRT production makes clever use of projected photos from Harelick’s own grandmother’s album.
“The Immigrant” is a fascinating and moving account of natives and immigrants, of the effects that the country has on people and the effects that people have on the country. It’s a sentimental, but true account, of one path to the American Dream.
The Indianapolis Repertory Theatre’s production of Mark Harelick’s “The Immigrant” is in its final week with near sold-out performances through Sunday. Information about tickets is available at 1-317-635-5252.