By Kendra Jones

Remember This Trick, directed by David Herskovits, begins with a card trick, which I will remember. The cast takes the opportunity to engage the audience with this card trick that we will learn the significance of later–after we have sat through an hour of a history lesson.

Green and gold shiny streamers hang around the space. Purim, a Jewish holiday that commemorates the saving of Jews from annihilation, and dated all the way back to the fifth century BC, is being celebrated. But, we do not yet know this. I feel like I’m at either an “Under the Sea” themed high school prom or in a kid’s production of The Little Mermaid. A pink and white chandelier of streamers is suspended above the center of the space. My first thought—jellyfish. A giant paper mache octopus hangs upside down from the ceiling and rows of bleachers on the stage are painted turquoise. (Antisemitic propaganda featured a cartoon of Winston Churchill as an octopus with a Star of David over its head.)

The set definitely indicated a celebration, but I was caught between fun, sparkling set and a serious tone: that warning for antisemitism.

With warnings of antisemitism, I expected there to be relevance to current events. But, this performance exhibited how Jews were first discriminated. The narrators, who took turns sitting at a table with microphone, throughout the show, narrated how the events of Purim unfolded. It concluded with a man telling about discovering his bedmate from Auschwitz lived in New York City, but he found out three months too late.

Haman, chief minister of King Ahasuerus, set a date for Jews to be executed after declaring that Mordecai, a Jew, was not obedient. Haman convinced the King that Jews were rebellious and suggested all those living under Persian rule should be slaughtered.

Ahasuerus did not know his Queen, Esther, was Jewish. She went to the king uninvited and suggested a banquet—the festival we watch unfold during this performance.

The cast played with gender roles, but these were too intentional; they did not seem natural or even purposeful to the performance. I appreciated them, but they were unnecessary to the story they were telling. While a Jew deceived the king, making him think she was not Jewish, I expected their gender to deceive the audience as well in some way but this was never the case.

Photo by Justin J Wee

The press request for this show presented it as “an exploration of American antisemitism, stories of Jewish survival, troubling conspiracy theories, and the trickster spirit that will save us all.” I wish I would have experienced a balance between these four aspects. Rather, this production was a shiny history lesson on the Jewish holiday.

I wish the production would have engaged me as much as that card trick. The cast’s passion and energy could have brought such a strong personal aspect to this show, but there were such missed moments of connecting this history to relevant conspiracies and stories of today. The ending connected me; it was tangible. The slow, intentional movement, dancing. The recollection of a missed connection. The music fading.

Remember This Trick began with a card trick, which I will remember. The details of Purim—not so much.

Directed by David Herskovits.

WITH: Danny Bryckas (Barbara Myerhoff, Haman, and others), Zoë Geltmanas (Barbara Myerhoff, Vashti, and others), Yehuda L. Hymanas (Barbara Myerhoff, Esther, and others), Sarah Suzukias (Barbara Myerhoff, Ahasuerus, and others), Mari Vial-Goldenas (Barbara Myerhoff, Mordecai, and others).

CREATIVE TEAM: Barbara Samuels (Lighting and Scenic Design), Beth Goldenberg (Costume Design), David Herskovits (Sound Design), David Rosenmeyer (Music Director), Jesse Freedman (Sound Demon), Tala Munsterman (Stage Manager).

Remember This Trick is running until March 17 at THE DOXSEE THEATER in Target Margin Theater, located in Sunset Park, Brooklyn at 232 52nd Street.