Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Review "Solomon's Blade"

Solomon`s BladePlaywright: Lisa Beth Allen
Winner Ashland New Plays Festival, 2004.
Tamar Greenwold has been unexpectedly called to return from a long awaited vacation with her husband. Her sister-in-law Claire is lying in the hospital seven and a half months pregnant, brain-dead, on lifesupport. Arrangements have been made by Tamar's close friend and attorney Kristin Joseph to have an Israeli immigrant adopt the child. Devoted to her Jewish faith, Tamar is thrilled until she discovers that the mother to be, Sahrrah Shouman, is Arab- Israeli. As the adults wrestle with the conflict, the nature of identity, faith and truth are called into question. Meanwhile Hannah, Tamar's gifted eight year-old daughter has become increasingly attached to the aunt she hardly knew and the unborn child. In an effort to stem the tide of conflict between the adults, Hannah evolves a plan with                                                                                                                  potentially deadly consequences.

 “Approached with great humor and humanity, Solomon’s Blade speaks to anyone who has ever looked in the mirror and seen a stranger.” - Dramatists Guild 
Starring: Rose Passione and Roy Von Rains, Jr. Directed by: Livia Genise 
Winner Ashland New Plays Festival, 2004                                                                                          

Review by Steven Masone

  Normally I do not like doing reviews that have "social activist" intent. Also I usually read the play first, but in this case it was not available to me at the time.. While  Theatre has a rich history of bringing social ills and issues to light as both commentary and expose', that mainstream media covers very superficially, I am usually predisposed to see a show for theatrical value. However, I decided to see  Solomon's Blade as the theme is so relevantly explosive and  controversial.

 Finding equanimity in this thousands' of years real life tragic  drama of enmity between Muslim Arabs and the Jewish people, is nothing short of impressive.

 I was adopted (de facto) by the Jewish family of my teenage first love, and of course have my sympathies ingrained from that experience where I had a rich experience, and a further affinity developed as I also trained with Israeli soldiers in the U.S. Army. However, as a journalist, I see subjective and bias reporting in American media betraying the institution of journalism.

There! With my position and subjective viewpoint declared, I will begin on the looking at the merits of the play for it's artistic accomplishment, and theatrical value. The redeeming social value through the theme of the play, speaks for it'self.

No one can be a hundred percent objective in this topic in this day and age. 
Lines are being drawn by political persuasions as well as religious and racial 
lines of bigotry on both sides. I was hoping playwright Lisa Beth Allen was not 
making this a promo statement for her side. She was not. 

 Lisa Beth Allen achieved her intent with impartiality for a most important element of a story, to wit ; redemption, to work it's way through in a very skillfully layered plot ...with thoughtful and provoking highs and lows of emotional content being acted out by a very good ensemble of actors with a great script and excellent direction...culminating in a pivotal twist I did not see coming.    

Stephanie Jones, left, plays Sahrrah Shouman, Maddison Garren play Hannah Greenwold and Rose Passione plays Tamar Greenwold in Camelot Theatre's production of "Solomon's Blade." Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta
Stephanie Jones, left, plays Sahrrah Shouman, Maddison Garren play Hannah Greenwold and Rose Passione plays Tamar Greenwold in Camelot Theatre's production of "Solomon's Blade." Mail Tribune / Denise BarattaCamelot Theatre is located at 101 Talent Avenue in Talent, Oregon, just north of Ashland. From Interstate 5, take exit 21, go west on Valley View Road thru the traffic light at Highway 99, bear right at the the traffic circle and end up on Main Street. The theatre is located at the corner of Talent Avenue and Main Street.

The play asks questions of identity, faith and human relations in this recently and increasing chaotic world in turmoil, with a focus on the incendiary topic of how radical Islam and the terrorism it inspires, have affected the public discourse and our own sensibilities.The dialogue is filled with witty humor and an indigenous sense of chutzpah, that is crafted with intelligence and much thought. A mixed diverse cast of characters puts contemporary attitudes toward culture, faith and customs on trial, as we also look deep into ourselves as we see religious and racial intolerance from many viewpoints that are juxtaposed to the innocent peacemaking of an eight year old precocious...yet insightful, curious, and inspiring young girl. ( Some Theatrical psycho-babble here, of whom, except for the twist, I see the playwright projected herself into this character the most as a catalyst for positive change ) 

Every performance was outstanding, with special cu do's to Rose Passione, who had the lion's share of dialogue in the lead role as Tamar Greenwold, and Maddison Garren, as her eight year old daughter, Hannah Greenwold. There were no weak links in the cast...all did a great job. Director Livia Genise is to be congratulated for her insight to first of all, select this original play, which is always a gamble that people would attend unknown works. And again, for making it all weave together in a powerful offering.
With such a volatile and divisive subject matter, as soon as the Muslim vs Jew hostilities 
 begins to fester,and manifest between protagonist and counterpart, you could feel the uneasy tension throughout the audience  and cut it with a knife.  However with the title in play, The Blade of Solomon wins out!   

 A must see play! see info for tickets @

 The Blade of Solomon is taken from the biblical account of "The Judgement of Solomon."

Two young women who lived in the same house and who both had an infant son came to Solomon for a judgment. One of the women claimed that the other, after accidentally smothering her own son while sleeping, had exchanged the two children to make it appear that the living child was hers. The other woman denied this and so both women claimed to be the mother of the living son and said that the dead boy belonged to the other.

After some deliberation, King Solomon called for a sword to be brought before him. He declared that there was only one fair solution: the live son must be split in two, each woman receiving half of the child. Upon hearing this terrible verdict, the boy's true mother cried out, "Oh Lord, give the baby to her, just don't kill him!" The liar, in her bitter jealousy, exclaimed, "It shall be neither mine nor yours—divide it!"

According to the Midrash, the two women were mother- and daughter-in-law, both of whom had borne sons and whose husbands had died. The lying daughter-in-law was obligated by the laws of Yibbum to marry her brother-in-law unless released from the arrangement through a formal ceremony. As her brother-in-law was the living child, she was required to marry him when he came of age, or wait the same amount of time to be released and remarry. When Solomon suggested that the infant be split in half, the lying woman, wishing to escape the constraints of Yibbum in the eyes of God, agreed. Thus was Solomon able to know who the real mother was.

"Splitting the baby"The expressions "splitting the baby" or "cutting the baby in half" are sometimes used for a form of simple compromise .  

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