With the advent and popularity of exploratory DNA tools like 23andMe and Ancestry.com to unearth family lineage, people are increasingly fascinated with discovering who they are and where they come from. This was particularly epitomized in Karen Hartman’s The Book of Joseph, which was based on former Baltimore News American and WBAL-TV reporter Richard Hollander’s finding of a suitcase filled with hundreds of swastika-stamped family letters from Poland between 1939 and 1941, revealing memories and untold stories of love, war and survival.
Adapted from Hollander’s book, Every Day Lasts a Year: A Jewish Family’s Correspondence from Poland, the two-act play compellingly chronicles three generations of a real-life, well-to-do, Polish-Jewish family (the Hollanders), spanning from newly Nazi Krakow in Poland to 21st-century America with fleshed out details of the invasion and occupation of their homeland, as well as their displacement and relocation.
Directed and staged by Noah Himmelstein, stage managed by Amanda M. Hall, and designed by Daniel Ettinger (Set Design), David Burdick (Costume Design), Cory Pattak (Lighting Design), Elisheba Ittoop (Sound Design and Composition), Caite Hevner (Projection Design), and Gary Logan (Dialects), each member of the nine-actor ensemble is enthralling to watch. Beginning with Bruce Randolph Nelson (Richard) who provides memorable moments of comic relief to balance the mood (“I’m surprised anyone came out at all, being as Holocaust stories rarely have legs.”) to Danny Gavigan as the ever persistent and far-sighted Joseph to Elliott Kashner as the enquiring millennial Craig, every performance is heartfelt and fueled with emotional fervor.
Many of the performers, such as Resident Company Members Megan Anderson (Dola/Vita) and Beth Hylton (Klara/Felicja), as well as Helen Hedman (Berta/Miss Blaustein) and Hannah Kelly (Genka/Boy Arnold) impressively played at least two roles. Bari Hochwald (Mania/Court Interpreter/Iris) and Wil Love (Salo/Court Officer/Stanley Diana/Elderly Arnold) outstandingly distinguished themselves by taking on the feat of conquering additional characters. They were especially convincing as the Court Interpreter and Court Officer, respectively.
Amidst the current controversies over immigration and refugee policies, Everyman’s The Book of Joseph is both gripping and enlightening, combining documentary and drama, bridging time and communities, both past and present.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.