Written by Elizabeth Ann Foster
“Three things have a faint savor of the world to come: Sabbath, the sun, and love.” Talmud, Berakhot.
The Sabbath Girl begins on sabbath, in the summer, with two people resisting love. Delivered to the stage straight from the scriptures in Cary Gitter‘s New York premiere of The Sabbath Girl.
An endearing, gentle, romantic, charming and heartwarming modern love story. Can the beautiful art curator Angie (Lauren Annunziata) recover from a broken heart and find love on the upper west side? Can her divorced neighbor and Orthodox Jew Seth (Jeremy Rishe) find anyone to stir his heart? Can single New Yorkers in their early thirties shed the cynicism and mistrust from their past experiences?
Spoiler alert: yes, yes and yes.
Seth’s knocking on Angie’s door to help turn on his air conditioner on Sabbath launches an elegantly crafted story replete with subtle references supported by visual art, music, culture, and the human quest for companionship, honesty, sincerity and loyalty. Delicate tensions are navigated between Jewish Orthodoxy and values of an Italian girl from New Jersey. She’s cultured, artistic, sensitive, considerate and empathetic. He seems a humble business man, dutifully running his Knish shop with his sister Rachel (Lauren Singerman) and well aware of his cultural history, traditions and family. True, but he’s much more. Seth reveals that he is highly intelligent, spiritual, caring, sensitive and pensive. He honors his family’s heritage, translating beautiful Yiddish poetry into English. Although Seth is divorced, his sister points out he still has marketable assets.
For a moment Angie considers one of her galleries latest potential artist, boy toy designer sunglass clad savant Blake (Ty Molbak). Angie’s nonna Sophia (Angelina Fiordellisi) quickly dispels that illusion. “I’m far too old to care about silly things that keep people apart. I’ll take an Orthodox Jew with love in his heart over an artist with icicles in his veins any day,” says nonna. A charming widow, she dreamily dances to romantic music of a bygone era as she reflects on her life, guiding and encouraging Angie. Even though she passed half a decade ago her sage and spirit live in Angie’s soul and heart.
One of the last songs we hear is Ella Fitzgerald’s I Can’t Get Started. Like the other artistic and poetic references, this gently portrays the cultural tensions Angie and Seth strive to overcome.
Originally titled The Shabbos Goy, a yiddish term for a non-Jew helping perform tasks not allowed under Jewish law for Jews resting on the Sabbath, was perhaps anglicized to attract a wider audience. With Jews, Italians, New York and Jersey in the mix, it will garner a wider audience regardless of the title and is well worth 85 minutes from your busy schedules to open up to the possibilities that exist when you take off your sunglasses.
The Sabbath Girl – written by Cary Gitter.
With – Lauren Annunziata (Lauren), Angelina Fiordellisi (Sophia), Jeremy Rishe (Seth), Ty Molbak (Blake), Lauren Singerman (Rachel).
Directed by Joe Brancato; Produced by Andrew M. Horn; Production stage manager Michael palmer; Stage manager Jamil Chokachi; Production assistant Tim Heinemann; Wardrobe supervisor Zoë Fancher; Scenic designers Christopher & Justin Swader; Costume design Gregory Gale; Lighting design Todd O. Wren; Original music and sound designer Matt Otto; Projection designer Yana Biÿkova; Assistant director Michael Herwitz.
The New York City Premiere of The Sabbath Girl is presented by the Penguin Rep Theatre through March 8, 2020. Sundays at 3pm, Saturdays 2:15 and 7:15pm, Tuesdays through Saturday 7:15pm. Sold out through 2/23/20. At the 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, NY NY 10022. Tickets $38.50 members $26 available at https://www.59e59.org/ticket-information/ or 646-892-7999. Window sales are limited to same-day performances. Runtime: 80 minutes without intermission