Shattered, soul-less husks, wandering in an alien landscape — such is the impression given by the Holocaust-eviscerated characters in Isaac Bashevis Singer’s 1966 Yiddish novel “Enemies, A Love Story.” Paul Mazursky made a film of it in 1990, starring Ron Silver, Anjelica Huston and Lena Olin.
Now comes the Gesher Theater of Tel Aviv’s acclaimed dramatic version of the novel; it arrives next weekend at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall, in honor of the 65th anniversary of Israel’s founding. It will be performed in Hebrew with simultaneous translation, through headphones, in English and Russian.
Directed by the company’s artistic director, Yevgeny Arye, “Enemies” centers on Herman Broder (Sasha Demidov), a somber but hedonistic survivor who was hidden in a hayloft by a Polish servant, Yadwiga (Natalia Voitulevich-Manor). After marrying her and bringing her with him to New York, Broder falls into the arms of a Jewish mistress, Masha (Efrat Ben-Zur), and then is stunned to discover that his first wife, Tamara (Ruth Heilovsky) is still alive. As he attempts to weave an ever-more dizzying web of sexual relationships, Broder finds his life spinning unsettlingly out of control.
Arye and the other principals of Gesher immigrated to Israel from Russia more than two decades ago. The company has staged many acclaimed productions, such as Alexander Chervinsky’s “Adam Resurrected,” based on Yoram Kaniuk’s 1968 Israeli novel of the same name (Paul Schrader made a film based on the novel in 2008), a drama about a former circus star from Berlin who is forced to perform for the Nazis. “Enemies” is the third part of a trilogy of Singer’s works that Gesher has presented, following “The Slave” and “Shosha” — performed in New York in repertory in 2004.
“Enemies,” which Arye adapted with dramaturge Roee Chen, has appeared across the globe, from Beijing to Bogota. The stage designer, Simon Pastuch, used the New York City subway system to structure the play; each station becomes, as Arye told Metro Beijing (the website for Beijing’s Global Times), “an entrance to the next level of madness.” The director insisted that “Enemies” is “not about death; it’s about life after death and about the fate of those who miraculously survived and were condemned to go on, being chased by the ghosts of their past.”
In an interview over blintzes at the Edison Café, the general director of the Gesher, Lena Kreindlin, told The Jewish Week that Singer “wrote about immoral things, but in a Jewish way.” She said that Gesher, which means “bridge” in Hebrew, is repeatedly drawn to Singer’s work, since the Nobel Prize-winning author “connected West and East, peace and war, love and beauty, literature and life.”
“Enemies, a Love Story” runs from June 6 to June 9 at the Frederick P. Rose Center, Jazz at Lincoln Center. Performances are Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. For tickets, $45-$135, call CenterCharge at (212) 721-6500 or visit www.jalc.org.