Life Journeys 

Rose takes us on a bittersweet eighty-year Jewish sojourn.

"I am eighty years old," begins the woman gingerly taking a seat on a hard wooden bench. "I find that un-for-giv-able." And then she's off on a sometimes merry, sometimes grim travelogue of those eighty years, from her childhood in a muddy Ukrainian shtetl through to her surprising success as a Miami Beach hotelier, with stops in Warsaw, the refugee ship Exodus 1947, a Jewish settlement on the West Bank, and Atlantic City for good measure.

The title character, played by the splendid Naomi Newman, is a charmer who will be instantly recognizable to anyone with an elderly Jewish auntie. Breaking off from a story to take some medication, she says, "I know, I know, I'm eating ice cream to take a pill for cholesterol. I'll tell you something — who cares?" She's got all the Catskills comedian moves, noting of Jews that "if ever a people weren't built for bathing suits, it was ours." Playful and raunchy, she also captures the great dilemma plaguing Jews all over the world when she describes the violence marring the dream of Israel: "We are supposed to be better than that. We are supposed to carry a moral light into the world."

Rose covers much of the familiar Traveling Jewish Theatre ground, both in taking yet another stab at the Holocaust and in featuring Newman in a solo show about a spunky Ashkenazi lady. But even with talk of golems and Kabbalah, it's rare for a character in one of these shows to describe ritual magic that involves collecting her husband's sperm to mix with chopped chicken liver, or how to defend yourself with a potato. Author Martin Sherman is using one woman to tell several stories about the experience of Eastern European Jews in the 20th century, and the densely written result is both unflinching and tender.

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