In our era of pandemic the Jewish Theatre of Bloomington has creatively offered a “virtual staged reading” of the Canadian playwright John Lazarus’s The Grandkid. Zooming in to the production, the home audience is offered a chance to read the play bill. As the play begins the screen is split. On the left IU theatre grad student Anna Doyle is Abby, the grandkid come to study at a small university in Ontario while on the right, area actor Gerard Pauwels is Julius, her college professor grandfather. Darrell Ann Stone has put this Zoom play together with just two weeks of rehearsals. The two actors are not in the same location, but their chemistry on the split screen through the twists and turns of this remarkable play works.
John Lazarus’s play has almost but not quite, too many threads and themes. Grandfather Julius has been living by himself for years since his wife died and the divvying up of household chores leads to an examination of sexism and agism that’s both funny and a bit telling on the part of the feisty young woman and her more stolid partner.
Julius, back in his day, was a liberal activist and he’s still to the left of center. Abby shares his liberal perspective though she’s a bit more active about it. Judaism and support for Israel are an issue. Abby did have a bat mitzvah and that was as far as she was willing to go. As far as Israel is concerned, she’s a supporter of Palestinian rights. Julius is a regular attendee at the local synagogue and he supports Israel’s statehood.
While Abby is home helping with the laundry, she finds a note in her father’s clothes suggesting a long time extra marital affair. Back at school with Julius she shows him the note and forces him to confront his son about it. The son, Abby’s father, confesses to his wife, Abby’s mother and she throws him out of the house. In what seems to be a too convenient, bit of a neat father son sin, it appears that Julius was in fact carrying on an affair while his own wife was alive. It was a long time ago, but here’s plenty of guilt to go around.
Abby and Julius do unite in an effort to rehabilitate the little town’s cinema and have the university take it over as a Canadian film center. They’re successful, the university does take over the building and the film that Julius created so many years ago is screened to a receptive audience, but their efforts fail as other groups are housed there. The good news is that the university is interested in housing a Canadian film archive and a search if on for another site.
There’s lots more plot lines and even themes in John Lazarus’s Grandkid, and I’m going to leave it to your opportunity to see a possible future production. The August 15th, Saturday night performance had more than two hundred Zoomers and that probably included more than one location with multiple viewers. Sunday afternoon’s performance drew a crowd as well. In the past there have been prospective Jewish Theatre of Bloomington attendees who were turned away at the door of the Rose Firebay. On the internet, it’s not a problem.
At the theatre for you, I’m George Walker.