cover picture by Maurice Sendak/cover design by Cynthia Krupat
"Seventy-four years after
its first production, A DYBBUK, S Ansky's tale of supernatural
possession in a 19th century Polish village, still haunts the
imagination with the fierce tenacity of the homeless spirit of
In an illuminating adaptation by Tony Kushner, this can indeed be the stuff of supremely affecting drama. Like all enduring myths born of collective experience, A DYBBUK strikes responsive chords that scientific and psychological explanations have never been able to still.
The play addresses a primal, universal yearning: the desire to have a dialogue with the dead, with all the guilt, hope and dread that this encompasses. The idea that dead men tell no tales may be of comfort to murderers, but it has been vigorously resisted by writers from Homer to contemporary playwrights as diverse as Herb Gardner, August Wilson and Mr Kushner in his great ANGELS IN AMERICA.
As the critic Eric Bentley pointed out years ago, there is indeed something compellingly theatrical in the central device of a dead man inhabiting the body of the woman he loved in vain. In this sense, the play shares the more blatant romantic appeal of love-beyond-the-grave classics like `Wuthering Heights'.
The extraordinary accomplishment of this production, adapted from Joachim Neugroschel's limber poetic translation, is its discovery of a pulsing core that humanizes....
The play has been substantially restructured, from four acts into three, with a concluding second-act scene that gives explicit voice to the religious doubts of Rabbi Azriel, the exorcist who dominates much of the play. Still, those who haven't read A DYBBUK recently may not realize just how much Mr Kushner has altered it, since most of the play's inherent imagery and themes are already implicit: sexual division, racial self-awareness and (since this is Tony Kushner, after all) a glimmer of apocalyptic apprehension."
Ben Brantley, The New York Times
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