By Suzy Williams

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Lisa Robins in “Blessing”

Venice goddess Lisa Robins gives a riveting and emotional performance as an Ivy-League Jewish girl who tries out kibbutz life. She falls in love and settles in Tecoa, Israel, and soon is blessed with a son they name Koby. Sherry Mandell, Lisa’s main character in this one-woman show, gushes about the joys of motherhood, calling it a state of bliss. But one day, when Koby was 13, he explored a cave in the striated mountains nearby, and never came out alive.

The play is set up to show, and Lisa’s acting underlines, the abject sorrow a mother feels upon losing her child. We learn about “sitting Shiva,” the seven-day mourning process, and the etiquette of how to talk to those who grieve: For instance, don’t say “He’s in a better place;” say “I’m crying with you.” We learn about how Shabat, the Jewish Sabbath, can be a balm for hurting souls, how a death can deepen one’s appreciation for life.

A remarkable aspect of this play is that there is no motion towards revenge or hatred against the Pakistani terrorists who stoned Koby Mandell to death. In fact, one of the most charming characters that Lisa so brilliantly brings to life is a laborer who spouts pearls of wisdom in an adorable Pakistani accent, showing us that Sherry holds no political grudges against any people.  “Hate can steal a person’s soul.”

Towards the end, we meet a mourning beggar who is asked about why he has two piles of sticks he has on his back. The poor man answers, “One bundle of myrtle is to honor. The other is to remember.”

Special kudos to Giulio Cesare Perrone for the very desert-like set design, and to sound and projections supervisor Tom Jones who offers us pertinent slides that blend beautifully with the set.

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“The Blessing of a Broken Heart,” adapted and directed by Todd Salovey and produced by Ronda Spinak and the Jewish Women’s Theatre, plays through March 20 at The Braid Performance and Art Space in Santa Monica at 2912 Colorado Ave. It plays Thursdays and Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm and 7:30pm. Purchase tickets at http://jewishwomenstheatre.org/ or by calling 800-838-3006.

 

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