ARLA Productions’ “A Splintered Soul” Review –What Happens When You Carry Hell’s Baggage

(left to right) Johanna McKenzie Miller, Craig Spidle and Nik Kourtis in the Midwest premiere of A SPLINTERED SOUL by Alan Lester Brooks, directed by Keira Fromm

 

“A Splintered Soul” by Alan Lester Brooks is not your typical Holocaust-themed play. 

 

Yes, the horrific Nazi concentration camps are the haunting backdrop.  We meet several Holocaust survivors who have been settled with the help of the American Jewish community in San Francisco.  

 

They bring hell’s baggage with them—haunting memories of what they endured and did-- as they struggle to start anew.  In this script though, which the playwright is said to have written as a parable of sorts for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s the continuing effects of hell on distorting true North in their moral compass that drives the action.

 

(left to right) Curtis Edward Jackson, Jessica Kingsdale, Matt Mueller, Craig Spidle, Eliza Stoughton and Nik Kourtis in the Midwest premiere of A SPLINTERED SOUL by Alan Lester Brooks, directed by Keira Fromm

 

A legendary Rabbi and resistance fighter (Craig Spidle) leads a support group of Holocaust survivors (Nik Kortis, Matt Mueller, Eliza Stoughton, Curtis Edward Jackson and Jessica Kingsdale) in the hopes that their shared community will help them rebuild their lives. 

 

left to right) Jessica Kingsdale, Curtis Edward Jackson, Matt Mueller, Craig Spidle (center), Nik Kourtis and Eliza Stoughton in the Midwest premiere of A SPLINTERED SOUL by Alan Lester Brooks, directed by Keira Fromm

 

Events bring the Rabbi to the realization that his sole purpose in life is now to protect these survivors.  He does do the “anything” required, in the extreme.  By doing so, he finds his undoing as a moral man.  

 

(left to right) Eliza Stoughton, Nik Kourtis and Craig Spidle in the Midwest premiere of A SPLINTERED SOUL by Alan Lester Brooks, directed by Keira Fromm

 

To the extent that we, the audience member, thought of his actions as understandable, we too get to taste the feeling of losing our right/wrong bearings.

 

(left to right) Curtis Edward Jackson, Craig Spidle, Jessica Kingsdale and Eliza Stoughton in the Midwest premiere of A SPLINTERED SOUL by Alan Lester Brooks, directed by Keira Fromm

 

It’s a good story and is delivered with solid performances by the entire cast (also including Dev Kennedy as a San Francisco Judge and Johanna McKenzie Miller in several roles). 

 

left to right) Nik Kourtis, Craig Spidle and Eliza Stoughton in the Midwest premiere of A SPLINTERED SOUL by Alan Lester Brooks, directed by Keira Fromm

 

Craig Spidle is especially well-cast in this lead role, bringing that combination of gravitas and ample humanity we’ve seen him evoke similarly on so many other Chicago stages.  It’s easy to see how Eliza Stoughton playing a former sex slave in the camps could have missed the mark by being overly melodramatic, which she never is.  Matt Mueller’s gymnastic switches back and forth from a swaggering atheistic survivor Sol and a gentle American man grappling with his own losses is fun to watch—even in the context of a heavy, heavy story.

 

pictured) Craig Spidle in the Midwest premiere of A SPLINTERED SOUL by Alan Lester Brooks, directed by Keira Fromm

 

Worth seeing—for its compelling story and performances.

 

Now through May 29.

 

Stage 773

1225 West Belmont

Chicago

 

For tickets or information all 773 327 5252 or visit the Stage 773 website.

 

Photos:  Emily Schwartz

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