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Review: A Pretty Girl a haunting reminder about love, family, war and hope
A case of gold over love left Mordechai tortured with guilt during Friday's opener of Chemainus Theatre's haunting Holocaust play A Shayna Maidel: A Pretty Girl
Pretty girls in Mark DuMez's deft direction of Barbara Lebow's story included Jewish sisters Rose (Susan Coodin) and Lusia (Luisa Jojic), their Mama (costumier Norma Bowen), and Lusia's friend Hanna (Masae Day).
They, and Luisa's husband Duvid (Kirk Smith), survived or succumbed to the Nazis' final solution that killed some six million Jewish people during the Second World War.
Lest we forget the ugly thought that rightly overshadowed Pretty Girl's penetrating morals about family love, forgiveness, faith and hope.
Think The Diary Of Anne Frank meets Schindler's List during DuMez's stage masterpiece.
The plot of gut-wrenching emotion watched Rose Weiss ride out the war in New York City with dad Mordechai (Harry Nelken), while Luisa, Mama and Duvid endured Hitler's horrors in occupied Poland.
Miraculously, Mordechai finds Luisa and brings her to America in 1946, after his wife died in a death camp.
PTSD-scarred Luisa prays to find Duvid following six long years of murder in Europe.
What a contrast between Rosa's sheltered American life, and Lusia's starved survival in a death camp across the pond.
Still, it was a touching reunion as Lusia shared Rosa's Brooklyn apartment — furnished with the food, warm bed, nice dresses and bubble baths Lusia missed growing up scared stiff before, during and after the war.
That's how Pretty Girl showed us the many things we take for granted as comfy Canucks.
We also realized differences between thrift and stinginess after Mordechai decided against borrowing the bucks to bring his wife and daughter stateside, before it was too late.
Wise beyond her years, Rose misses Mama's tender love, and family closeness that never was.
Her anguish appeared while using a pen to copy Lusia's camp-number tattoo onto her arm, while Hanna became a ghost after years of Nazis brutality.
Coodin and Jojic posted stunning performances as reunited sisters appeasing their stern father.
Jojic's slow, audible Polish accent made us listen carefully to dialogue revealing how the war splintered a family's world.
Nelken nimbly molded Mordechai into a bitter, stingy man mourning the loss of his wife, and many other relatives listed by him and Luisa.
When father and daughter compared noted names, consumed by Auschwitz's flames — and other camps — it showed the stark truth about the sinister SS agenda.
Pretty Girl's impact was also felt in Lusia's flashbacks of her withered life, recorded in family photos saved by her mother.
DuMez's show — using a simple living-room set, plus effectively vital lighting — was a welcome change from the theatre's string of comedies, musicals and farces.
With messages like these, more Girls are welcome.
A Pretty Girl runs at the Chemainus Theatre until Sept. 28.
Holocaust drama rating: 9.5 yellow stars out of 10.