Superb acting, writing and directing make Stephanie Liss' world premiere play, On Holy Ground, a joy to behold. In the first act – “Daughter of My People” -- Salome Jens, one of the USA's finest actors, portrays Henrietta Szold (1860-1945), one of the co-founders of Hadassah and a fervent Zionist and humanist. Jens, seated alone on stage, delivers a monologue which brilliantly illuminates Szold's life.
A rabbi's daughter, Szold was raised in New York -- "to be a boy," as she ruefully confesses -- and eventually put her intellectual gifts to good use, becoming editor/translator for Louis Ginzberg, a well-known German writer. Although she was much older than he, she fell in love with Ginzberg and expected to marry him, only to be dumped by him in sudden and unexpected fashion. Szold sublimated her hurt and disappointment by plunging into good works, founding (with two other women) Hadassah, building the first Jewish hospital in Palestine, campaigning (unsuccessfully) for the establishment of a bi-national state (Jewish and Arab) and helping run Youth Aliya, an organization that rescued 30,000 Jewish children from Nazi-held Europe.
Szold's monologue is more emotional than dramatic, but Jens still manages to catch you up in its spell, thanks to her magnetic gifts as an actress.
In act two, “Jihad,” two actresses also deliver monologues. Lisa Richards plays an Israeli woman, a Sabra, whose 16-year-old daughter has been killed by a suicide-bomber. On the other side of a low fence Abbe Rowlins plays an Arab mother whose late daughter could very well have been that suicide-bomber (a term she rejects in favor of "martyr").
Two mothers speaking from the heart, mourning a dead child, pouring out their pent-up, impassioned emotions: it's a microcosm of the tragic and seemingly insoluble Israeli-Palestine conflict.