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The Temple Bombing

a Historical Drama
by Jimmy Maize

COMPANY : Alliance Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Woodruff Art Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 5042

SHOWING : February 22, 2017 - March 12, 2017



On October 12, 1958, a bundle of dynamite blew through the wall of Atlanta’s oldest synagogue. Following 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, Rabbi Rothschild of The Temple had become a public advocate for the progress of Civil Rights. The explosion and national support for The Temple community bolstered Atlanta city leaders’ resolve to investigate and prosecute the crime, paving the way for dramatic social change. "The Temple Bombing," inspired by the award-winning book "The Temple Bombing" by Melissa Fay Greene, is a world premiere presented on the occasion of The Temple’s 150th anniversary. This theatricalization celebrates a city that came together in the face of hatred to live the lessons of the Civil Rights era, lessons that still resonate 58 years after that fateful day. "The Temple Bombing" is developed in association with Tectonic Theater Project of New York and The Temple.

Ensemble Danielle Deadwyler
Ensemble Ann Marie Gideon
George Bright/Ensemble Eric Mendenhall
Ensemble Lee Osorio
Reuben Garland/Ensemble Ric Reitz
Ensemble Justin Walker
Rabbi Jacob Rothschild Todd Weeks
Ensemble Minka Wiltz
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"Driving Miss Daisy" + "Parade" + Fact
by playgoer
Thursday, March 9, 2017
The 1958 bombing of The Temple on Peachtree Street in Atlanta is a footnote in history. No one was injured, and similar synagogue bombings occurred in other southern states during the same time period. The author of "The Temple Bombing" (director Jimmy Maize, with input from the ten-person cast) seems to have realized this, so more seminal events are brought into the mix, namely the 1915 lynching of Leo Frank and the civil rights movement. The impacts of the bombing and the lynching are more powerfully portrayed in "Driving Miss Daisy" and the musical "Parade."

That’s not to say that there isn’t any power in the story presented onstage. The dramatic highlight occurs during the testimony of rabbi’s wife Janice Rothschild (Caitlyn O’Connell) at the trial of accused bomber George Bright (Eric Mendenhall), when she is subjected to the over-the-top courtroom shenanigans of defense lawyer Reuben Barland (Ric Reitz). Mostly, though, the play comes across as a fast-moving history lesson.

The production is overblown, which seems to be a hallmark of Alliance productions. Meredith Ries’ two-story set uses scrim walls upstage to allow views of the hole blasted in The Temple’s wall at times and to show Daavid Bengali’s projections of shadows and newspaper headlines at other times. Jake DeGroot’s lighting design puts endless arrays of lights onstage that sometimes shine into the audience’s eyes, and Kendall Simpson’s sound design amplifies lighting effects for the bombing and for photographers’ flashbulbs. It’s all done professionally, although at one point a shaky or flickering spotlight illuminated the splendid Ann Marie Gideon on the second story of the set at the performance I attended.

The acting is professional too, although Minka Wiltz seems to stumble on her lines in many of the characters she portrays. Sydney Roberts’ costume design helps to establish the time periods and to accessorize the ensemble as they briefly take on a variety of personages. Still, the stunt casting of having ensemble members cross gender and racial lines to portray different real-life people becomes tiresome after a while.

"The Temple Bombing" was created in response to an initiative to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of The Temple, and it smacks a bit of a vanity production. The Jewish history of Atlanta is long and varied, but this play’s emphasis on the civil rights agenda of Rabbi Jacob Rothschild (Todd Weeks) focuses the history in a specific direction that attempts to broaden its impact, but has the converse effect of minimizing the contributions of Atlanta’s Jewish community. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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