‘Flight’ From The Past
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‘Flight’ From The Past

A mother-son relationship is burdened by the Holocaust in Michel Wallerstein’s new play.

Ted Merwin’s column appears monthly. He writes about theater for the paper and is the author of the award-winning “Pastrami on Rye,” a history of the Jewish deli.

Can a child be liberated from his or her parent’s traumatic past? In Michel Wallerstein’s new play, “Flight,” the relationship between a Holocaust survivor and her son is warped by her unwillingness to talk about what she suffered during the war. As his mother begins to slide into dementia, her son finds himself running out of time to unlock the secrets buried deep inside his mother.

The play, which is produced by the Alchemy Theatre Company of Manhattan, begins previews this weekend at the DR2 Theatre near Union Square. The star-studded cast features Maria Tucci (the daughter of author Niccolo Tucci), Maddie Corman and Jonathan Walker.

Directed by Padraic Lillis and with lighting design by Sarah Sidman, “Flight” centers on Judith (Tucci), an ailing Jewish widow whose non-Jewish husband passed away while their son was still a teenager. Her son, Andrew (Walker) is an investment banker who has had a string of unsuccessful relationships with emotionally troubled women, and who has a difficult time relating to his mother. When Linda (Corman), an oddball caregiver at Judith’s assisted-living facility, takes an interest in her, the elderly woman’s secrets start tumbling out.

Wallerstein, who was born and raised in Switzerland, came to the United States in the 1970s to study film at NYU. After developing series and films for European television, he turned to playwriting. Wallerstein has penned many short plays and one previous full-length play, “Five Women Waiting,” inspired by his mother’s experience as part of a group of Polish Jews rescued by the Swedes. Wallerstein is thus part of a wave of artists that includes Art Spiegelman and Thane Rosenbaum, children of survivors who have created what is called “second generation” Holocaust literature.

“People who are near death often relive the most painful moments of their lives,” the playwright told The Jewish Week. “It isn’t their childhood birthday parties that their minds turn to.” Judith has walled herself off from her past, he said, partly because her non-Jewish in-laws rejected her. “She has never been authentic with herself,” he said, “so she can’t possibly be close to anyone else.” As a result, Judith’s son, who is also disconnected from himself, finds it easier to lose himself in his girlfriends’ dramas in order to avoid his own.” Mother and son are brought together only through the intervention of Linda, a clumsy, quirky Catholic woman who becomes what the playwright calls a “spiritual guide” to both characters as they undergo their respective emotional journeys.

A pair of kites form a central symbol in “Flight.” The two kites are, according to Wallerstein, symbols for the two antithetical aspects of Judith’s life — her “free, carefree childhood versus the darkness of the camps and the years that she has deleted from her life.” Only at the end of the play do the two kites finally merge into one.

“Flight” begins previews on March 2 for a March 7 opening at the DR2 Theatre, 103 E. 15th St. It will be performed Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., as well as Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. For tickets, $65, call Telecharge at (212) 239-6200 or visit telecharge.com.

DR2 Theatre, 103 E. 15th St. It will be performed Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., as well as Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. For tickets, $65, call Telecharge at (212) 239-6200 or visit telecharge.com.

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