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Nov. 17, 2014

‘Dybbuk’ gives laughs, chills and tears to audience

By Jaychelle Willis

Opening night, the approximately 150 onlookers sat anxiously waiting for the show to commence. Soon enough, the lights dimmed and the curtain raised —introducing the spectators to the cast as they stepped onto the stage one-by-one singing a Jewish melody.

Cleveland State University’s Department of Theatre and Dance started off the fall season with its musical production of The Dybbuk at the Allen Theatre.

Based on the 1920’s Yiddish play by S. Ansky, The Dybbuk tells the story of a young bride who, on the day of her wedding, is possessed by a spirit.

Directed by Professor Michael Mauldin with music by Christopher Toth, the production incorporated a mixture of romance, suspense and religion all in one.

Before the show began, Mauldin came out to thank the audience members for their attendance. Dorothy Silver, the wife of theater legend Reuben Sliver — whom the production was dedicated to — was sitting front row that night.

Set in Israel, the ensemble told the story of Chanon, a brilliant scholar and Leah, the daughter of the Meyer, a rich merchant — who are in love. By some magical force, the two share a special connection with one another. However, as the news of Leah marrying a wealthier man in an arranged agreement is announced, Chanon unexpectedly dies.

On the day of Leah’s wedding, Chanon returns to claim what he feels is rightfully his, as he possesses Leah’s body.

A possessed Leah then goes into a demented rage, blaming her father for the unexplainable death of Chanon.

Leah is then brought to the home of the chief rabbi, in an attempt to exorcise the dybbuk from her body. After several failed attempts, another rabbi arrives and tells of a dream he had, in which Nisn, the long-dead father of Chanon, demanded that the Meyer be called before the rabbinical court.
As the room is prepared as a court, the spirit of Chanon’s father is invited to plead its case. The spirit speaks to the rabbi and tells him of a pact made between him and the Meyer, in which they agreed that their children would marry. By denying Chanon his daughter’s hand in marriage, the Meyer had broken the pact.

To appease the spirit, the Meyer agrees to give away half of his goods and money to the poor for the return of his daughter.

With Leah now back to her original self, Chanon returns as a spirit, and Leah unites with her beloved — presumably, in death.

Chanon, played by sophomore Joseph Virgo, and Leah, played by freshman Sarah Blubaugh, blended together perfectly, mimicking each other’s movement and speech as Leah was possessed by the dybbuk.

After eight weeks of preparation, Mauldin said he was pleased with the success of play.

“It was a celebratory night, in which all our hard work the last few weeks really paid off,” Mauldin said. “The audience was enrapt with the production, and experienced plenty of laughs, chills and tears.”

The audience were very pleased with the production of the play.

“I thought it was the most different and incredible thing I’ve seen,” Jamie Sanderfield, a theater major on the acting track, said. “I wasn’t expecting it to be singing in it and it was fabulous.”

After the show, Mauldin invited the guests to the reception where they enjoyed refreshments and meet the cast and crew.

The Dybbuk ran from Thursday Nov. 6 through Thursday Nov. 16. For more information on the Department of Theatre and Dance upcoming events visit theatre/theatre.