Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

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An exorcism right here in Arlington? Yes! The exorcism ritual has moved from Georgetown (remember The Exorcist?) to Arlington – to Gunston Theater Two to be exact. And you are invited to participate!

Last Saturday, The Arlington Century Theater (TACT) opened its 2010-2011 season with a very entertaining production of Paddy Chayefsky’s A Tenth Man.

The play covers a single weekday morning in a shabby little storefront synagogue in Mineola, New York. Several men have gathered for an early morning minyan – or prayer service. They are searching for men to make up the ten men required for a minyan.

While they are preparing for the minyan, Mr. Foreman stumbles in with his granddaughter Evelyn Foreman. Grandfather Foreman is extremely upset and the young woman is clearly mentally disturbed. Foreman tells them that she has been in and out of mental institutions diagnosed with acute schizophrenia.  Her parents were about to send her back when her grandfather spirited her away. He has become convinced that his granddaughter is not a schizophrenic, but that she is possessed by a dybuk and needs an exorcism to drive out the dybuk and return her to normalcy.

According to the British Encyclopedia, a dyubuk is “a disembodied human spirit that, because of former sins, wanders restlessly until it finds a haven in the body of a living person. — Often individuals suffering from nervous or mental disorders were taken to a miracle-working rabbi who alone, it was believed, could expel the harmful dybuk through a religious rite of exorcism.”

A serious debate ensues and the men preparing for the minyan decide that indeed they should perform an exorcism to drive the dybuk from the girl. But they are still one short of a minyan, required for a dybyuk. So they go out on the street to drag in the first Jewish man they can find.

He turns out to be a very handsome lawyer, a nonobservant Jew, and, as it turns out, someone with significant psychological problems of his own. Need I even mention that ultimately the handsome, but disturbed, lawyer falls in love with Evelyn with remarkable consequences when the exorcism finally takes place in the third act.

The real enjoyment of this play is the constant dialogue among the men who are constantly debating the minutiae of Jewish theology, culture, and life in general. But we are also dealing with a woman – and as it ultimately turns out, a man — who is possessed by a devil whose only real desire is to be released from the purgatory to which her own life in ancient times has condemned her.

As I have mentioned before, The Arlington Century Theater is dedicated to presenting notable plays from the mid-twentieth century that have largely fallen from the public eye in recent years.

The 2010-2011 season will bring us Chip Deffae’s One Night With Fanny Brice, Eugene O’Neill’s Beyond the Horizon (1920), Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman’s Stage Door (1936), and Gore Vidal’s Visit to a Small Planet (1956),

You should see them all. But right now you should immediately get tickets to see The Tenth Man. It is a thoroughly enjoyable play. It runs at Gunston Theater Two in South Arlington through October 16.

 


Richard Barton may be e-mailed at [email protected]