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      Mrs. Feuerstein
    The "Feuer" the better

    "Mrs. Feuerstein" is the emotionally complex story of a Holocaust survivor who begins to indulge her violent fantasies of revenge through a play within the play.


    Murray Mednick recently revived his near-legendary Padua Playwrights with a mini-festival of his own new work in Los Angeles. Critically lauded there, "Mrs. Feuerstein" is the first of these plays to arrive in New York.

    Written by: Murray Mednick.
    Directed by: Roxanne Rogers.
    Cast: Maria O'Brien, Daniel Ahearn, Lynnda Fergusson, Samantha Quan, Martin Shakar, Kevin Shinick.
    Music by: O-Lan Jones.
    Set Design: Michelle Malavet.
    Lighting Design: Jeremy Morris.
    Costume Design: Harwood Lee
    125 W. 42nd St.
    Dec. 18, 2001 - Jan. 27, 2002

    Adele Feuerstein (Maria O'Brien) is a poet and Holocaust survivor who finds herself teaching history and creative writing in a private school in Pennsylvania. Upon meeting Max Wahl (Daniel Ahearn), the German principal of the school, she is overwhelmed with barely suppressed feelings of rage and inadequacy and begins to fantasize about revenge. She starts work on a play about the situation, recasting herself as an avenging Nazi hunter and a play-within-a-play structure emerges.

    O'Brien and Lynnda Ferguson, who plays Freida Wahl, were both transplanted from the L.A. production and have clearly benefited from long-term immersion in their roles. Their emotionally complex, slightly stylized performances perfectly matched the challenging text and anchored this production beautifully. The other actors also performed well, notably Ahearn, who maintained a polished surface to his character while allowing the audience the impression that there was a lot more going on underneath. The only disappointment was Samantha Quan, as Mrs. Feuerstein's therapist Jane. Quan is clearly a talented actress but seemed somewhat out of her depth in playing against her extremely accomplished colleagues.

    The structure Mednick's text demands that the lead actors all play essentially double roles: the characters of the framing story and the characters in Mrs. Feuerstein's play. Because these are really different versions of the same people, some tricky work is required here, and these performers all proved themselves more than equal to the task. They were helped along substantially by the savvy direction of Roxanne Rogers, who imposed structure and demanded precision without suffocating the impulses of her actors. The staging was presentational without being distracting, intelligent without being arrogant. She worked with her designers to create seamless transitions between the two realities of the play.

    The designers themselves did lovely work as well. The spare set and elegant lighting (by Michelle Malavat and Jeremy Morris, respectively) helped maintain the delicate balances demanded by the play, and O-Lan Jones's evocative score lent emotional weight without resorting to maudlin manipulation.

    The star of the production, though, was the text itself. There are a lot of Big Ideas here: the simultaneous necessity and futility of revenge, sublimated inferiority complexes, art as therapy, word as action, sex as violence. Mednick juggles these all with a disciplined lyricism and still manages to allow the play to be funny without losing any of its power. As founder of Padua Playwrights, Mednick has nurtured such talents as Sam Shepard, Maria Irene Fornes, and David Henry Hwang. Mrs. Feuerstein serves as a potent reminder that Murray Mednick is every bit their equal.

    JANUARY 27, 2002

    Reader comments on Mrs. Feuerstein:

  • samantha quan   from bob, Oct 7, 2002

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