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Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Dybbuk (1960)

In Jewish folklore, a dybbuk is a malevolent spirit, a displaced soul of a dead person who can only find purification by inhabiting the body of a living person. Not unlike the exorcisms of the Catholic church, there is a ceremony performed by a Rabbi to cast the dybbuk out. In this seminal play of Yiddish theater written in 1914 by Shloyme Ansky, a young girl (Carol Lawrence) is possessed by the spirit of her dead lover (Michael Tolan) on her wedding day. Sidney Lumet (DOG DAY AFTERNOON) directed this version and while it wobbles a bit in the beginning (though to be fair, this may be inherent in the writing), he does an excellent job in the latter half during the sequence leading up to the exorcism as well as the exorcism itself. The dialog is often awkward and doesn't roll off the tongues of the actors easily. Music plays an important part in this production and the role of Leah, the possessed bride, requires an actress who moves well so it's fortunate that Lawrence is a dancer (she was the original Maria in the Broadway WEST SIDE STORY). With Theodore Bikel as the bride's father, Ludwig Donath, Vincent Gardenia, Gene Saks and Milton Selzer.

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