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The Warsaw Voice » Stage & Screen » May 7, 2015
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Love, Broken Vows, Possession
May 7, 2015   
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The Dybbuk, a play based on a drama by S. Ansky, opened at Warsaw’s Jewish Theater April 17, kicking off celebrations marking the 65th anniversary of the theater.

The Dybbuk remained largely undervalued while Ansky (real name Shloyme Zanvl Rappoport) was still alive and did not make the Russian-Jewish author internationally famous until after his death. His masterpiece is a poetic tale of wandering souls, depicting love as the emotion that gives meaning to life and that should never be ignored. The Dybbuk shows how a broken promise comes back to haunt a person who fails to keep his word and that certain decisions can cast a shadow over someone’s entire life. It is also a tale of honor and troubled conscience.

In Jewish tradition, a dybbuk is a malicious possessing spirit, believed to be the dislocated soul of a dead person. In the play, a girl named Leah is possessed by the dybbuk of her beloved Khanan. The two were meant for each other under an agreement their fathers struck before Khanan and Leah were even born. But as the years went by, their fathers went their separate ways, memories of old promises started fading away, and Leah’s father reneged on the agreement by promising Leah to another man. When Khanan finds out, he blasphemes against God and is so upset he dies. His troubled soul is then drawn to the grieving Leah and in the end, his dybbuk possesses her body.

The new version being staged at the Jewish Theater is directed by Maja Kleczewska with a rewritten and expanded plot by Łukasz Chotkowski. Before World War II, Warsaw was home to the largest Jewish community in Europe and the second-largest in the world after New York City. The Warsaw Ghetto, in which a total of 450,000 Jews were enclosed by Poland’s German occupiers, covered an area of around 3.07 square kilometers. These historical facts have prompted Kleczewska and Chotkowski to expand the original play, including fragments referring to people who lived in the Warsaw Ghetto as well as Holocaust victims and survivors. According to Kleczewska and Chotkowski, memories of the tragedies and horrors of the Ghetto penetrate the very fabric of Warsaw. Those who live where people were once subjected to mass extermination are obligated to speak up about each of these thousands of individual lives, Kleczewska and Chotkowski say. They add that The Dybbuk seeks to recount the individual stories of those people.

For further information go to
Upcoming performances: May 7, 8 and 9, 7 p.m.
Jewish Theater; 12/16 Grzybowski Sq.
tel. 22 620-62-81, 22 620-70-25
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