A Lovingly Rendered View of The Immigrant at Sierra Madre Playhouse

Leigh Kennicott Reviews - Theater
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Mark Harelik’s tender rendition of his family story —from immigration in 1909 to emergence as a prominant family in the small town of  Hamilton, Texas — has been given a lovingly honed production helmed by The Fountain Theatre’s Simon Levy.

Glimpsing the 19th Century Judaism transplanted to the Texas plains becomes only one of the pleasures an audience gains from the transition Haskell Harelik (Adam Lebowitz-Lockard) makes when he lands in this remote spot. Part of a settlement scheme to desseminate the influx of Easter Europeans throughout the U.S., Harelik came to Hamilton via Galveston Harbor at the turn of the last century.

Harelik attracts the attention of the town banker, Milton Perry (Stuart W. Howard), whose wife, Ima (the marvelous Kaye Kittrell) has taken pity on him. Eventually, banker Perry backs Harelik in a dry goods store that becomes the backbone of the town’s economy. But real charm comes from the authentically portrayed story of Harelik’s wife, Leah (Sigi Gradwohl), who brings her religious orthodoxy to the Texas town. We have sympathy for the wrenching cultural shift that takes place.

This quartet of excellent actors lend specificity to a tale that runs the gamut of more than 50 years. Levy employs the help of a galaxy of consultants, designers, and specialists to bring authenticity to the play.  Rabbi Daniel Bouskila provides religious instruction, while Rob Adler Peckerar hones the yiddish dialect, and Deborah Ross Sullivan gives overall dialect support (Texas twang, anyone?).

The tale gains fluency through the use of a sweeping projection design set against a generic backdrop, all designed by Matthew G. Hill. Shon LeBlanc’s costumes and Peter Bayne’s soundscape complete the picture. Derek Jones’ lighting, sadly, relies on too few instruments to augment the stage picture.

One more note: I think no other theatre takes so much care and attention to the lobby elements that augment knowledge about the show in question. Sierra Madre Playhouse’s installation is worth a trip in itself!

The Immigrant continues Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 2:30 PM; through JuMay 26th at Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre 91024. Tickets, $20.00. Phone (626) 355-4318.  For online ticketing: www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.