Leipzig, by Wendy Graf, is a potent play in which long suppressed memories of guilt, anger and loss are rawly revealed. Ann Burke plays Eva Kelly, the matriarch of a staunchly American Catholic family, whose descent into Alzheimer’s elicits strange results. As the disease persists, Eva begins to insist on regular prayers. Yet to the surprise of her observant daughter Helen (played by Diane Kondrat), and consternation of her husband George (Richard Burke), they’re in Hebrew.
A Past Unearthed
As Eva’s grasp of the present deteriorates, she dreams herself back to an assimilated Jewish childhood in Leipzig. She has warm memories of outings with her mother and father (Gail Bray and Don Breiter) and the older brother Erich, whom she idolized (Kyle Hendricks). It becomes clear that Eva was sent out of the country for her safety while the rest of the family perished in the camps and the resistance, as her long-repressed feelings begin to surface. She struggles with survivor guilt and anger at the family that abandoned her.
Initially, Eva’s daughter Helen is appalled to discover that she might be Jewish. She spews a litany of prejudices before gradually becoming rather fascinated. An amusing version of Jesus Christ (Gabe Gloden) both supports and teases her in her developing mission to dig for her family’s roots.
This Midwest premiere production of Leipzig is directed by Deborah LaVine, who also directed the original West Coast production. Although it is a staged reading, the scripts seldom obstruct the performance – in some scenes, they were even used neatly as props. The whole cast does a solid job, but it’s Ann Burke and Diane Kondrat whose performances weave the main threads of the show. Ann acts a beautifully modulated descent into Alzheimer’s combines anger, fear, pathos and a certain gritty humor, while Diane wades through anger to fascination and understanding.