The Take-Away

  • A whirlwind of thoughts and ideas that was a refreshingly different approach to a scripted play

  • Design that looked simple but was anything but and let the story shine.

  • An amazing ensemble performance of diverse humans

  • An important inward look at identity in a time where so many groups are under attack

 

In Our Pockets

Sarah

I really like what Orbiter 3 has done for playwrights and for Philly and I’ll be super sad to see it go. I was definitely a little sentimental knowing this was the last production. I am also friends with people involved in the production and many orbiter members. 

Nan

I’ve only seen a couple other Orbiter 3 shows and have been pretty impressed. I know some people in the show. I’m not Jewish and was curious if there was going to be any discussion about Israel and/or the recent events there relating to Palestinian protests.

Connie

I know nearly all the Orbiters, and I’m close friends with several people who worked on this production.

The Design

Sarah

I think for starters I want to say a play about Judaism where I was literally surrounded by images of Christianity was very distracting for me.

 

Connie

And on the other side of that, I really enjoyed it and thought it may have added to the experience. A story trying to live and thrive in a place that wasn’t really built for it.

Like, literally.

Nan

I was really interested in the choice to produce it in a church. I thought if nothing else it was definitely a heightened kind of awareness, and for me the work definitely benefited from being in a “sacred” space, of any denomination– I think it would have missed something if it were in a black box or any other kind of regular space

Connie

Churches present so many challenges for designers, too. Particularly set, lights, and sound. But on that note, I think all the design elements worked, just some more than others.

 

Sarah

That’s for sure. I just know there’s a large Jewish community here with multiple synagogues and I hope they looked at those options too. I guess I should have said my best friend is a rabbi, so I’ve been to quite a number of Jewish services and events, so I was very aware of the dissonance. For me, I feel comfortable in a synagogue but not in a church, and that took me some time.

Still, I was also glad it was in an older sacred space. It gave some weight and just- like- a smell of dust that only comes in an old sanctuary. I was very impressed with what they did with the space.  It just took a while for me to relax into it

 

Nan

The space didn’t have installed seating, which allowed Doug Greene to do really cool stuff with the arrangement of the space. The shifting of the audience so that there’s a thrust originating from the front door of the space was dramatically useful.

 

Connie 

I really liked Katherine Fritz’s costumes, and how comfortable everyone seemed in them. With that many costume changes it can definitely start to feel like a farce, but I think the costumes supported and enhanced all the work the actors were doing, without trying to do the work for them.

 

Sarah

Costumes were INCREDIBLE. So many shifts but no gimmicks!

NAN

I was slightly confused by the addition of that one plaid suit on Richard Chan

Connie

The addition of live music by Lucas Fendley and Dan Perelstein was great. It sometimes felt like a party, sometimes like a ritual, and overall helped thread all the different scenes together, particularly because there was no traditional throughline of “here’s the protagonist and we’re going to follow them.”

Nan

Absolutely. I also adored the homemade foley effects, with the matches being lit and the plops of objects in water.

Sarah

I loved the music and the sound effects. I was house right and there was also ambient sound coming from behind me in the hallway. That was great

Nan

I think overall that the design team really made the space work for them so beautifully, between the sounds coming from downstairs and the street and the weight of the decor itself. The way you noticed the tiny cups of wine set behind the seats when you entered, and not entering through the big double doors but through the side door– it was definitely a curated experience.

 

Sarah

Doug Greene’s really light touches on set really worked. 

 

Nan 

Yes! I loved the layered rugs especially.

 

Connie

It had a thrown together, ‘let’s tell a story to each other’ feel, while clearly being well thought out with professional polish.

 

Nan

A perfect balance of casual and ritualistic.

 

Connie

Yes! It makes me admire all the design all the more, because to make something look that easy is such hard work.

 

The Play

Connie

I thought the structure was spot on for a play that was a 90 minute existential and identity crisis.

 

Nan

The structure did fit the content, for sure. I was interested in how “devised” it felt, knowing it to be a written work.

 

Connie

Getting to see lots of different people across space and time (as the program says) creates so many ways for an audience member to find their way in to this play.

 

Sarah

I really appreciated all the detail in the experience both the play and the physical space. It just felt like a really loved piece that was well cared for

 

Nan 

Good point about many ways to find your way in– for me that same trait made it hard for me to get fully absorbed and stay in, because it changed direction so often. I think it did mean that there was something in it for everyone, more so than in something more linear, but by the end it felt like whiplash 

 

Sarah

I definitely left wondering what the focus was

 

Nan

I think what I really got out of it most was the little connections between individuals across generations– the family stories we hear briefly referenced and then scenes later are revisited by another family member, like the hat-sitting theme that kept reappearing as told by different people.

 

Sarah

Identity itself isn’t linear or focused, but that doesn’t make it unimportant. It felt like we were in the brain of someone trying to think about all of these things at once.

 

Nan

It was more interested in those big statements and questions than the little stuff. It was more about the gestalt image, which I guess identity is, in this case.

 

Connie

It was interesting to note which big questions got their own smaller scenes. A lot of scenes brought up the struggle of how to deal with ingrained misogyny, which is in no way a problem just found in the Jewish faith or experience.

How do we change and stay the same all at once?

 

 

The Performances

Sarah

The scene with the Orthodox person talking to the rest of the group really stands out to me.

 

Nan

That was really interesting. I really enjoyed Aaron Bell’s speech about having no choice but to become a hatmaker. And in general everything with Mal Cherifi. They really stole the show in almost every scene.

 

Connie

The ensemble was so strong. Leah Walton and Anita Holland in particular for me.

 

Nan

Leah Walton’s “I am not a fig” scene was so lovely. And everything Anita Holland does, ever.

 

Sarah

I couldn’t pick a favorite. I was also really happy to see faces I don’t get to see very often mixed with some regular players.

 

Connie

Shout out to Anita Holland, though, who knows how to look at an audience member (me) and not make them feel like they have to ‘act’ with them now. Seeing plays where I know there will be audience participation can make me anxious but she knows how to welcome and invite you in to the experience.

Nan

I was so glad to see Anita finish out the show too, with the Rabbi scene.

 

Connie

Oh I feel so conflicted about that scene. I loved that scene but also felt like the play ended one scene earlier, in the scene with the wine and bread.

 

Nan

Ahh yes, agreed. I didn’t sense much of an overarching plot rise and fall so it didn’t really bother me. But I also wasn’t really on board continuously throughout, the jumping around left me behind pretty early in the show

 

Sarah

I definitely checked my watch a couple of times

I really loved the elements of ritual and think there’s a version of this play where the rituals are what tie it all together and give it a loose structure. Those moments were so precious and specific and I would have loved to see more of them. The phone calls back to grandparents also felt like a ritual, and I loved that.

 

Nan

Or more of a tangible through line in recognizable recurring characters.

 

Sarah

I didn’t hate how non linear it was and I wasn’t looking for a “story”, but I did want an arc in there somewhere

 

Connie

The whirlwind structure of different stories and different people was refreshing after other works I’ve seen lately. It just felt like a blast of something different that made me sit up and pay attention in a way other plays haven’t lately.

 

Sarah 

I did enjoy that and I didn’t feel “lost”

 

Nan

I appreciate that it was something pretty different that they were going after, and I objectively enjoyed that, but it was hard for me to feel emotionally invested.

That said, I’m also not Jewish, and I was also aware of the lines that were getting laughs from certain people in the audience that didn’t register for me. So I wonder how much of it is about who the intended audience is.

 

Connie

Do you think some things don’t quite get across if you’re not Jewish? I thought about that a lot afterwards.

 

Sarah

I think this show wouldn’t have been successful if it was just about “the big questions” and not so specifically about the Jewish people, faith, and experience.

We can only explore those big questions because it’s framed specifically. 

 

Nan

Yeah. And it would have been missing something if it didn’t have those moments that totally go over the heads of people who aren’t Jewish, too.

I was also thinking about it in the context of the response to People’s Light’s Anne Frank this year, which some people were very angry did not have enough Jewish representation in the cast. I don’t know how many people in this cast are Jewish, or if it matters as much in a story that isn’t about historical figures who were also real people, but I found myself wondering if it was something that others were asking themselves.

 

Sarah

It certainly strikes me that we three are also not Jewish and so this review will ultimately be missing a huge part of what this play contains. It’s a good reminder of the difference between “I can imagine what that feels like” and “I know what that feels like”.

And it felt very clearly like a purposeful casting to show how diverse the Jewish people are

 

Nan

My last real question about the play is Why this play, now? 

 

Sarah

I think identity questions and politics are a major conversation point. And the question of “am I ______ enough? “ is really resonant to me, at least

And this felt like a big conversation about all of that

 

Connie

I don’t know if this is a helpful answer but it’s so hard to imagine this play not happening now with everything that’s happening in American life and politics. There are countless groups that feel the threat from those who want them to feel less than human. This play feels like such a raw and honest response to fear and anxiety of right now when the future can feel uncertain. That it also contained so much love and grace feels like a gift.

 

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