Aaron's Arms/The Mire at Cherry Lane Studio

The Negro Ensemble Company will present With Aaron's Arms Around Me / The Mire, an evening of two one-acts by Sophia Romma, a Russian-American playwright, both on the theme of intolerance. Both plays are directed by Charles Weldon.

The first play, With Aaron's Arms Around Me is directed by Negro Ensemble Company's Artistic Director, Charles Weldon. The second, The Mire is directed by Yuri Joffe of the Mayakovsky Academic Art Theater in Moscow. Both plays deal with eternal themes of intolerance from an émigré's perspective. With Aaron's Arms Around Me / The Mire opens at the Cherry Lane Studio Theatre on 4 Dec 2010, following a preview performance on 3 Dec, and runs through to 19 Dec 2010.

With Aaron's Arms Around Me is a one-act, directed by Charles Weldon, in which two émigré women, one from Jamaica and one from Russia, are thrown together for an interview through a creative writing class at NYU. They tease out the secrets of each others' love affairs, both of which are tests of tolerance to their families, sharing the hardships of love and being young and very much alive. Tanya, the interviewer, is Russian Jewish and in love with an Italian Catholic man, for whom she has been baptized (to the agony of her parents). Madeleine, the interviewee, is Jamaican and in love with a Jewish man who is the son of a Holocaust survivor. She happened to be raised without religion, so her only ethnic "badge" is the color of her skin. To marry Aaron, she must assimilate into the closed culture of his family, in which Jewish identity is a high-stakes issue. The play portrays love, to the émigré, as a sort of universal value and asks, in a country without borders, is love actually unifying or must it submit to the harsh divisions of ethnic identity?

The Mire directed by Yuri Joffe, is a one-act play inspired by Anton Chekhov's 19th century short story of the same name. It spins a stark tale of a vixenish young Russian Jewish émigré, Svetlana Moiseyevna, who captures the heart of a twenty-eight year old renegade Lieutenant, James Perso Arrivederci. The Lieutenant, an Iraq veteran and dissident, visits Svetlana to collect a monetary debt she owes his brother, who coincidentally is her married ex-boyfriend. Arrivederci faces court martial for his opposition to the war and needs money to wed his poor youthful fiancée back in Corpus Christi, Texas. His brother has promised him that if the collection effort is successful, the money will be his. Svetlana speaks in riddles and veiled allusions. She is a devil of a woman who shakes him up so that he falls head over heels in love even though he fully comprehends that she is far from heavenly. Prejudice also rears its ugly head. He loves her beyond reason, yet he resents her for being Jewish.

With Aaron's Arms Around Me is a world premiere. The Mire was first produced by the Midtown International Theater Festival as a work in progress with the title 'A Sweet Word Of Advice' in July, 2010 at The Jewel Box Theater in Manhattan. It was directed by Maxine Kern.

With Aaron's Arms Around Me will be performed by Naomi McDougall Jones as 'Tanya' and LaTonia Phipps as 'Madeleine.' Jones played 'Svetlana' in 'A Sweet Word of Advice,' the workshop predecessor to 'The Mire,' in July, 2010.

The Mire is performed by the cast of its July, 2010 workshop, with Naomi McDougall Jones as 'Svetlana,' Tosh Marks as the 'Lieutenant,' Allan Mirchin as the 'Grandfather' and Carolyn Seiff as the 'Grandmother.'

In both plays, set design is by Inna Bodner and sound design is by Dimitri German.

Originally published on

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