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‘Hebrew’ Hits a New Stage

“My Work is Blessed: Or the Hebrew Review,” a play usually seen by 4th to 10th graders in synagogues and schools, has left the classroom for a short run at the Tracy Roberts Actors Studio, proving itself capable of more secular appeal.

With humor, a pleasing cast and director Deborah Lavine’s light touch, Teatron Ha’am (The Theatre of Our People) presents Phil Weinstock’s play about Eliezer Ben Yehudah, the 19th-Century father of modern Hebrew. Yehudah, who reputedly defied lack of interest and accusations of heresy with fanatic passion, made Hebrew the living language of what would become the independent state of Israel.

Weinstock’s play, a simple distillation, avoids polemics; Israel’s political struggle is a gauzy backdrop for a man whose rebellion was linguistic. Weinstock, who plays Yehudah, communicates the single-mindedness of purpose, but downplays any fanaticism. He gives Yehudah a vibrant first wife, D’vorah (Wendy Becker), and a humorous and loving first son Ben Zion (William Ackerman).

It’s all done quickly, simply and with good humor, although the play’s classroom aura is never entirely dispelled--cramming 50 years of one man’s monumental struggle into 45 minutes of narration and vignettes sometimes results in a lecture-like quality.

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After the play itself, however, the cast, using two words of Hebrew requested from the audience, does a comedy improvisation that’s just for fun.

Ackerman, Becker and Weinstock handle their roles capably; Ackerman’s portrayal of baby Ben Zion is a giggly hit with the youngest in the audience. Costumes and sets, by Emily Payne and Eddy Polon, respectively, are of the bare basics school.

At 141 S. Robertson, this Sunday and April 2, at 7:30 p.m. $7; (213) 856-0819.


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