The Blessing of a Broken Heart Review - Resilience From Tragedy

Based on a true story, THE BLESSINGS OF A BROKEN HEART was directed and adapted by Todd Salovey from Sherri Mandell’s moving and poignant story about love, loss, and redemption. Lisa Robins stars in a solo triumph as a mother who must face her worst fear, the loss of her child. The play is both painful and stunningly poetic as it explores how a family, torn by the bloody loss of their first-born son, gradually comes out of the shadows of catastrophe and blossoms into a new consciousness: 

“God does his work with that which is broken...it is when our hearts are broken that God sculpts our souls, prodding open the narrow entrances to the cave of our being.” 

Author Sherri Mandell won a National Jewish Book Award for her memoir, translated into three languages. A certified pastoral counselor and co-director of the Koby Mandell Foundation, which runs programs in Israel for bereaved children and families, Sherri’s spiritual journey is delicately outlined in Salovey’s adaptation. At the post-performance ”talk-back” on opening night, Sherri Mandell herself remarked that Lisa Robins’ performance is so powerful that Lisa has somehow burrowed into her own heart.

 

Lisa Robins as Sherri Mandell - Photo courtesy of AJT

The tale begins with Sherri, not an especially observant Jew, when she decides to go to Israel to experience living in a kibbutz - which lasts all of a week. The story might end there - but for Sherri’s meeting with the man who will become her devoted husband. Her marriage to this ultra-conservative Jew results in four children and their eventual settlement in a village abutting the Tekoa valley. Life has assumed a pleasant hum-drum pace as her oldest son approaches 13. Then the unthinkable happens. Her son and his best friend are missing after school one day.

Lisa Robins - Photo courtesy of AJT

 

The death of a loved one can lead to a crescendo of pain, confusion, and withdrawal for the survivors, especially under the excruciatingly brutal circumstances in which this atrocity occurred. With slow and difficult steps forward, Sherri and her family rise from the ashes of loss to find a balance with the universe. Important messages are cleverly wrapped inside the poetry of the script, reminding us that “you must learn to listen.” And certainly not only with your ears.

 

Todd Salovey (Director and Adaptor), Seth Mandell, Sherri Mandell (author of book), Lisa Robins (actress), Ali Viterbi (Associate Director), and Ronda Spinak (Producer, Jewish Women's Theatre Artistic Director) - Photo by Elaine L. Mura

Giulio Perrone’s staging is simple and in keeping with this very personal story. Punctuated by Mitch Perlitch’s projection design, Kristin Swift Hayes’ lighting, and Mary Larsen’s costume design, the production remains intimate to the very last moment. Director Todd Salovey and assistant director Ali Viterbi manage to enhance the tale with bittersweet moments which have lingering echoes from every mother’s losses across the globe. 

THE BLESSING OF A BROKEN HEART runs through March 20, 2016, with performances at 8 p.m. Thursdays and Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Sundays. The Braid Theater is located at 2912 Colorado Avenue #102, Santa Monica, CA 90404. Tickets are $30 to $35. For information and reservations, call 310-315-1400 or 800-838-3006 or go online at www.jewishwomenstheatre.org.

 

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