Margolin is more of a storyteller than an actor in this one-woman show, which was commissioned and originally presented at the Jewish Museum. Drawing reminiscences from her childhood, young adulthood, and recent years, the 41-year-old writer/performer expounds on her lifelong fascination with waiting for the Messiah. She recalls various incidents over the years -- some rather innocuous, others more extraordinary -- when she suspected the Messiah was present. Margolin weaves other definitively Jewish experiences and characters into her stories and fluidly incorporates Hebrew expressions in the monologue (a glossary is provided in the program).
While not particularly exciting, O Wholly Night was thoughtful and heartfelt. The importance of this subject to Margolin was made abundantly clear by the details she recalled and the affection with which she spoke. Margolin is extremely fond of her religion. She has even considered it praise, she said, to be called a Christ killer (a common slur on Jews) because it makes her sound powerful. Margolin states early on that she has always loved being Jewish and that waiting for the Messiah is her favorite thing about it. Her play celebrates the religion for allowing the identity of the Messiah to be questioned. Margolin's introspection and nostalgia make O Wholly Night a proud, insightful experience for Jews and interesting to those curious about religious philosophy. Others, however, may not find it theatrical enough: The set was simple; the only prop (an old dress) was on stage because of its personal significance to Margolin; and the actress didn't bother with a costume or makeup. On the other hand, Margolin's natural look -- a plain dress, unstyled hair -- contributed to the informality of the show. She's a refreshing change from Hollywood actresses. Margolin also shows originality among Jewish artists in avoiding self-deprecation and stereotypes that get an easy laugh. (Dramaturg, Rae C. Wright; sets, Patricia Woodbridge; lighting, Jeffrey M. Whitsett.)
Copyright 1996 Adrienne Onofri
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