The Book of Joseph

January 29

March 5, 2017

Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare

by Karen Hartman
based on the life of Joseph A. Hollander and his family
directed by Barbara Gaines

Critical Acclaim


Chicago Tribune
 Directed by Barbara Gaines with such an intensity of emotion, such a determination to draw parallels to the present, to remind an audience to love those who will die soon, to pay attention to changes in the world, that I've decided this is the most personally intense thing Gaines ever has directed in Chicago. The Book of Joseph is the real-life story of Joseph A. Hollander, a man who got himself out of Poland. Physically. Never in his heart. The quiet exit of memory and testimony is one of the central points of the play, actually, and one with enough force to shock. If you've ever cleared out an attic and wondered what the heck to do with the papers that make up a life lived through trauma, if you've sat by the trash in despair, throwing away nothing, then everything, then nothing again, this is your show. Some Jewish people saw the Holocaust coming with total clarity. Others insisted that the checks and balances of the new normal would buffer the vulnerable. For those with foresight, the lack of it in their friends and family often was the source of unspeakable agony. Never—and I mean never—have I seen that anguish more potently expressed than by the actor Sean Fortunato (an actor giving the performance of his professional life) in The Book of Joseph.” Read full review

Chicago Sun-Times
“Developed by Rick Boynton and directed by Barbara Gaines, The Book of Joseph is, among many things, about the very different ways in which people deal with trauma and loss. Watching the production, you begin to understand how intrinsically linked this work is to Shakespeare. For not only did the Bard frequently deal with the theme of exile, and how painful a phenomenon it is, but in his ever controversial The Merchant of Venice, he also homed in on anti-Semitism and the way it made the Jews of Elizabethan England feel like exiles in their own country. And of course the fact that this country (not for the first time) is dealing with profound and varied questions about refugees and immigrants only underscores the relevance.Read full review

“Potent and targeted, Barbara Gaines’ inaugural staging keeps it real and, even better, current. The two-act tour de truth shifts and twists our perceptions of innocence and survivor guilt, as well as immigration, deportation and anti-Semitism. The Book of Joseph is Hartman’s action meditation on the mutability of emotions over time.”

“It certainly deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. As the living memory of the Holocaust disappears, plays like The Book of Joseph, stories that give a face and a heart to an unimaginable series of events, grow more important. Go see this beautiful, topical production.

The Book of Joseph is more than simply another true Holocaust play—it is a ‘must see’ work that is wonderfully presented…with smartly effective staging and vital videos and winning performances by the ensemble.”

Chicago Reader
“Barbara Gaines has crafted a simple, powerful production of Karen Hartman's rich, multilayered play for this world premiere.”

Time Out Chicago
Four stars Joseph's tale, and his family's, so desperately needs to be heard.”

Time Out Chicago
"מחזה מעולה ומומלץ"

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