Even as the Holocaust recedes into the distant past, its effects are as potent as ever. So suggests Rivka Bekerman-Greenberg in her new play, “Eavesdropping on Dreams,” in which a survivor’s toxic trauma is passed along not just to her daughter, but to her granddaughter as well. Produced by the Barefoot Theatre Company, the play is running through mid-May at the Cherry Lane’s Studio Theatre.
Directed by Ronald Cohen, “Eavesdropping” takes place in contemporary times, during a period between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. It centers on Rosa (Lynn Cohen), a survivor of the Lodz Ghetto and of Auschwitz, who immigrated to New York. Her daughter, Renee (Stephanie Roth Haberle), is a renowned pediatrician to whom her mother has never opened up. Renee’s daughter, Shaina (Adian Koehler), is a medical student who comes back from a March of the Living trip to Poland filled with questions about her grandmother’s life.
As Rosa, who is haunted by horrific nightmares, reveals the awful truth of what she suffered at the hands of the Nazis, the three women move inexorably toward a deeper understanding of each other and of themselves.
Bekerman-Greenberg was born in a Displaced Persons camp in Italy; she grew up in Tel Aviv. She recently produced “I am Carrying the Holocaust in My Pocket,” a documentary based on interviews with four granddaughters of survivors. She is a graduate of the NYU post-doctoral program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, and she is on the faculty of the Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy (ICP). “Eavesdropping on Dreams” is her first play.
Cohen, who is best known for playing Magda (the nanny) on “Sex in the City,” has appeared in dozens of films, including Steven Spielberg’s “Munich,” in which she played Golda Meir. She has also been a regular on the New York stage, with appearances in “Hamlet” (with Kevin Kline), “Macbeth” (with Liev Schreiber), and “Orpheus Descending” (with Vanessa Redgrave).
In an interview, Cohen told The Jewish Week that Bekerman-Greenberg’s play “opens a door that’s usually not walked through. It shows how the horror and insanity of the Holocaust goes on for generation after generation.” As Rosa copes with terrible survivor guilt, she helps her granddaughter get to the heart of what Cohen called the “huge, tragic secret of Rosa’s torture and torment.”
Cohen emphasized that the characters in the play are “intelligent, cultured, witty people who are trapped in a nightmare” from which there often seems to be no awakening. The play, she said, is “about how then influences now, like a dream that stays with you even after you wake up.”
“Eavesdropping on Dreams” runs through May 20 at the Cherry Lane Studio Theatre, 38 Commerce St. in the West Village. Performances are Wednesda-Saturday at 7 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. For tickets, $35 ($25 for students/seniors), call TheaterMania at (212) 352-3101 or visit www.theatermania.com.