Rachelle Glait is directing Limor Aginsky in the biggest role she’s ever had except for real-life motherhood.
Aginsky plays Alona in Goren Agmon’s Stern-Bloom Pharmacy, staged by the Hebrew Theatre of the Jewish Public Library (HTJPL) at the Segal Centre Studio theatre on June 23 and 26. This protagonist is a widowed mom who gives herself a unique gift for her 50th birthday, offloading the family pharmacy onto the shoulders of her children to pursue her dream of helping AIDS-afflicted orphans in Africa with Doctors Without Borders.
She also gifts them her home as part of the package.
The only problem is her pregnant married daughter, who is the third generation pharmacist, and Alona’s emotionally precarious son aren’t ready to treat the legacy that was instrumental in the founding of Israel with the same reverence.
Throw into the mix the daughter’s husband, a Brit with his own views, and the Arab-Israeli pharmacist who is a partner in the business, and the scene is set for conflict.
“On one level, it’s a very modern story set in Tel Aviv. On another level, it’s the oldest story we know,” says Glait. “Just go back to King Lear dividing his realm between his daughters or go further back to the Bible and ‘Honour thy father and thy mother’.
“There’s a wonderful Yiddish expression that goes, ‘One mother can raise 10 children but 10 children cannot take care of one mother’. Things get turned upside down when she has to ask things of her children. You feel for this woman but at the same time there are a lot of laughs in the play.”
It is the mandate of the HTJPL to produce only plays written in Hebrew and not translated from other languages “so people can have a feel for what’s going on in Israel culturally,” says Glait. “Our audiences are thirsty for this and so grateful they don’t have to buy a ticket to Israel to see a play in Hebrew!”
This is the second play by Agmon after the successful Mother in Love four years ago. It’s the 14th play staged by the HTJPL, co-founded in 2000 by the late Nitza Parry who left a legacy that keeps Montreal Israelis connected to their roots and audiences linked to the language.
Eddie Stone’s English surtitles reveal the Israeli outlook to the larger community.
Jerusalem-born Aginsky moved to Montreal eight years ago, always having loved theatre since a childhood role in a nation-wide Noah’s Ark production.
She has kept her talent honed during memorial service readings for which she is often called upon.
Glait, the casting director of the Segal Centre and artistic director of the HTJPL, was impressed with Aginsky’s readings and gave her roles in two plays before this one.
“She just has instinct and that’s something you can’t learn,” says Glait.
Aginsky gave birth to her second child only seven months ago and has been rehearsing twice a week while gearing up to return to her job as an art teaching assistant at Solomon Schechter Academy. All the actors volunteer their time away from their daily jobs. When they aren’t portraying the children, Helena Daniel works at the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre and Ran Levy runs a transport company.
Michael Stadtlander, who plays the son-in-law, is in real estate and Rachel Wahba Schori in the role of the Arabic co-owner is a gifted puppeteer.
Dedication like theirs keeps the theatre going along with that of set designer Dudu Razon, fundraiser Assaf Drori, who also supplies the workshop for set construction, JPL head of programming Roxana Brauns, and Alvin Segal who has donated rehearsal space to the group.
“My stage manager Daphne Ben David is a university student. She and lighting designer Jeremy Pinchuk are the young bloods,” says Glait. Tickets are at 514-739-7944.