Photo: Oana Monica Noz
Photo: Oana Monica Noz

‘The Book of Ruth’: Kaddish For Peaceful Life

The 10th edition of the Madách International Theatre Meeting in Budapest coincided with the Jewish holiday Sukkot (Festival of Booths). It is celebrated for seven days, one of which was symbolically marked by a performance of The Book of Ruth, performed in Yiddish by the artists of the State Jewish Theatre in Romania. 

Yiddish is a language that is buried, foreshadowing its demise. Its speakers have also been buried throughout world history. But they live. And the language lives. It resounds and resonates in hearts.

The Book of Ruth is a very personal story for its author Mario Diament, an Argentine playwright of Jewish origin. The plot behind the play is inspired by the life of his mother, who worked as a journalist in Buenos Aires and also in the United States, an immigrant from Warsaw who settled in Argentina in 1934. Her family perished in the meat grinder of the Holocaust. The writer recalled that his mother did not like to talk about the past because it was too painful. But the unspoken had to one day find the form of words… And of course, the tone and heartfelt awe with which this work is composed can be felt in every episode.  Mario Diament is known as a journalist, screenwriter and playwright. Plays based on his texts have been staged not only in Argentina and Latin America but also in Europe and the United States. His play The Book of Ruth won the Streisand Award in the United States at the Jewish Play Festival in San Diego, California.

There’s nothing in the plot summary that you haven’t seen before. But it seems so only at first approximation. Technically, this is the story of a Jewish immigrant, Ruth (Katia Pascariu), who emigrated to Argentina from Poland with a suitcase of memories of her beloved country added to the heavy baggage of guilt that she survived and her family perished. Until her final days, Ruth feels the sizzling complexity of being a survivor who did not share the fate of her loved ones.

For forty years -the symbolic number of the Jewish people’s wanderings in the desert- Ruth lives in a country that was supposed to provide her a bright future. But she lives in a dark past. She left at the insistence of her mother, who sensed the changes in the country and the world and the smell of the impending Shoah. Her mother was sure that her daughter would have a brilliant life with the husband Boris (Mihai Ciucă) that her parents had chosen for her, but life had decided otherwise. At sixty-eight, Ruth looks back on her life as if she were living it all over again. Three ages of a woman, a little girl – a big girl and a mature woman. Three stories about how deceptive life is sometimes, promising, beckoning, and promising so much…

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