By Isaac Bashevis Singer
Adapted & directed by David Zoob
Pros: The story and characters are complex. The level of detail the play develops in such a small interval of time is quite amazing.
Cons: However well presented, a little more time would have given the play a better sense of drama.
Our verdict: A production which draws you in with its atmosphere, despite the fact that it would have benefited with more time.
The Destruction of Kreshev is based on a novel by Isaac Bashevis Singer. In this tale, Satan recounts his plot to destroy the Jewish shtetl of Kreshev by meddling in the love affairs of a young girl named Lisa. The character of Satan himself is broken down into two personalities; a woman and a man who give shape to the story through their combined words and recollections.
Life is Kreshev is mundane and simple; it circles around tradition and the Holy Scriptures from which the law is also derived. A young girl, Lisa (played by Lidia Baksh) has just been told by her father that she must marry one of two suitors: a young, studious scholar played by David Hewson or a much older man of means. Lisa chooses the “book rat” without a second thought. They fall in love at first sight and the wedding is planned. However, her new husband has his own interpretation of the sacred books, and brings Lisa into a world where sin is no longer sin, where good and evil are relative concepts and where love has a new meaning. The perfect setting for the Devil to carry out his evil plan.
The play develops through fragments of memories, told directly to the audience by the two creatures who embody Satan. As they recount the events, the actors take on the roles of the various characters who populate the story. Lida Baksh and David Hewson skillfully morph between these extremely varied roles (from evil hell-spawn to innocent young lover, for instance). The experience is very rewarding, albeit it seems a little rushed. Although there is an amazing level of detail crammed into such a short interval of time, one can’t help but feel that The Destruction of Kreshev would have benefited from a better sense of drama had more time been available. None the less, the transitions between characters smooth and by no means are the parts mixed together – it is never difficult to tell one character from the other despite the complexity of the plot.
Although the staging is fairly simple, there is no feeling of incompleteness. The set is functional, and allows the actors to switch scenes, roles and settings easily. In addition, David Hewson and Sammy Myers round-off the presentation with atmospheric sound effects. From ghostlike echoes which underpin Satan’s part, to the angry cries of villagers during one episode in the shtetl, these effects help to draw the audience in to the show’s universe.
The Etcetera theatre really is a great place to spend an evening. It’s casual, familiar and pleasant, especially when a play like The Destruction of Kreshev is on the menu. Despite having to work within a short time slot, this production had excellent characterisation and was able to draw the audience in to its creepy atmosphere.
The Destruction of Kreshev runs at the Etcetera Theatre until 23rd August.
Box Office http://www.camdenfringe.com/index.php?id=6