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New play ‘A Splintered Soul’ explores moving forward in America after the Holocaust

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New play 'A Splintered Soul' photo

The cast of "A Splintered Soul."

A Splintered Soul brings a unique interpretation to the traditional Holocaust stories shared on stage.

The play, which runs from April 20-May 29 at Stage 773 in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood, explores the complicated relationship between faith, tragedy, and moving forward in a San Francisco community of Polish immigrants in in 1947.

The play, written by Dr. Alan Lester Brooks, centers around the life and decisions of Rabbi Simon Kroeller, a pillar in his newly established American community who is reeling from the loss of his family in the war in Poland. His journey is a story that many know, but is not often talked about: the plight of the survivor and the anguish entailed in moving on from such unspeakable tragedies. It's an affecting play that causes the characters and audience to engage in the struggle between questioning and faith, responsibility and anger, and how morality can shift and change in the wake of nearly impossible experiences.

The plot and characters were originally inspired by stories from Brooks' wife's family and his own time serving as a physician in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam. The impression that the war-torn landscape left on him was inescapable, and resulted in this work that he is proud and passionate to continue evolving, hopefully for audiences all across the country. With productions in Los Angeles, New York, and now Chicago, the play's broad appeal reaches beyond the Jewish and immigrant communities to communicate themes connecting with the survivor in everyone.

The story is familiar, but it takes on a more expansive quality as many of the themes ring as true today as they did over a half a century ago. "This is a Holocaust story, it's an aspect of our collective history; we have context for it," said Keira Fromm, director of the play and a Jeff-award nominee. "What made me really curious when I read it is that it's really topical. It's a story from 1947, but it touches on themes that are alive and present in the world. It got me thinking about the stress and the tension of the refugee crisis and how we navigate the refugee crisis in this country. Right now it's an important time, and we wanting to be on the right side of history."

Brooks describes the play as a metaphor for the events in Israel today. The situations and ethical dilemmas presented have universal applications. It's a story about existing in two separate, very different, worlds."

The production is a beautifully collaborative process, and Fromm, Brooks, and dramaturg Sarah Illiatovitch-Goldman worked together for over a half a year making small changes to Brooks' book to enhance it for the Chicago stage.

Brooks came to playwriting at the end of his career as a physician and he revels in the complex structure and the opportunity to continually revise and reinvent the characters that he knows and loves so well. "I love the creative process," he said about his work as a playwright. "I'm allowed to be a dreamer now. It's a work of love."

The play strives to reach out to generations of young people who are growing up with the Holocaust in danger of fading into a more distant memory. This play strives to honor not only the victims of the historical tragedy, but also the survivors left broken in its wake.

Tickets are available now at www.stage773.com, in-person at the box office at 1225 W. Belmont Avenue in Chicago, or by calling (773) 327-5252.

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