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January 31, 2014

'Yentl' showcases Jewish traditions at Playhouse Square

By Hannah Corcoran

“Yentl”, a Cleveland Play House production, tells the story of a young Jewish woman in 1873, who challenges the status quo of her time to live the life she’s always wanted.

After the death of her father, Yentl decides to follow her dream of studying the Torah and joins a yeshiva, a school for Jewish law. Because women were not allowed to do this and were expected to care for the house and have children, Yentl had to disguise herself as a man. She takes on her new identity (Anshel) and must deal with the situations that follow, while still covering up her secret.

“Yentl,” directed by Michael Perlman, involves dramatic irony because for most of the play, only the audience knows Yentl’s secret.

Rebecca Gibel played the lovable Yentl. Gibel brought Yentl’s innocence and passion for studying the Torah and being her own person to life.

Other standout actors were Ben Mehl, who played Avigdor, Yentl’s best friend at the yeshiva, and Therese Anderberg, who played Hadass, the young woman Yentl marries under her guise as a man. Cleveland State’s own Bob Abelman was also a member of the ensemble. Abelman, a faculty member in the School of Communication, played the rabbi.

The production transported the audience back to 1873 village life with elaborate costumes and props.

“Yentl” incorporated music, such as the guitar and traditional Jewish songs, to convey both lighthearted and serious scenes. Lighting was also used heavily to complement each scene. The show entranced the audience with a rotating circle in the middle of the stage that was used during dramatic moments of the play.

Despite a few scenes that dealt with heavy issues, such as death, divorce and desolation, the show included a lot of humor. The audience laughed at jokes surrounding gender relations, sex, and Jewish customs and sayings.

Nudity was incorporated to bring the storyline alive, which earned some gasps from the audience.

The production was around two and half hours long, with a 15-minute intermission. It will be playing at the Allen Theatre until Feb. 2.