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Yiddish Theatre

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"Lillian Yuralia" at La MaMa Theater

Barbara Eda-Young, an Obie Award winning actress whose distinguished career ranges from Theater Genesis and La MaMa to Broadway, has lately become a prolific playwright. La MaMa E.T.C. will present the premiere of her reflective and powerful new three-person play, Lillian Yuralia, from November 13 to 30, directed by Austin Pendleton. The piece was a sensation when presented as a workshop January 18 to February 4, 2008 at HB Playwrights Foundation.

The play, a finalist at the Humana Festival and winner of a 2001 Berrilla Kerr Grant, is set on the Lower East Side in 1930. Lillian, a former star of the Yiddish Theater (or so she says) has lived for many years with her lover Jake in a top floor flat of a brownstone. Across the hall, Levy, a refugee from the Russian Pale, lives in a room alone and isolated. All of his family lost in a pogrom, he has shut himself off from the world. When the play begins Lillian stands in her empty front room. With the sudden death of Jake, who has failed to make any provision for them, she now finds herself and their teenage son, Yidl, destitute. Obliged to live off the charity of distant relatives, they are about to leave the only home they've known. Church bells begin to ring the hour. Desperately playing for time she makes tea for her son, and in her cup, she pours an overdose of laudanum. Soon Yidl will begin a frantic pounding on Levy's door. A door he has never opened to anyone.

The play, then, is how the mother and son's visit opens the door to the old man's heart and how the boy, silently suffering from his mother's tragic turn of events, finds his voice.

Audiences are accustomed to plays about Jews on the Lower East Side having the veracity of real stories, since so many are based on actual history. This one has the resonance of history, but the power of fancy. The author testifies that the play is part dream part imagination and a little family history.

Ms. Eda-Young will appear at La MaMa in the title role. Levy, the neighbor, will be played by Broadway veteran Ben Hammer and Yidl will be played by John Magaro.

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Lillian Yuralia
Written by: Barbara Eda-Young
Directed by: Austin Pendleton

November 13 to 30
La MaMa E.T.C. (First Floor Theater), 74A East Fourth Street, Manhattan (Presented by La MaMa E.T.C.)
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 pm; Sundays at 2:30 pm and 8:00 pm
$18 tdf/v
Box office (212) 475-7710; online ticketing www.lamama.org  
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Barbara Eda-Young

Barbara Eda-Young and John Magaro.

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