We saw it, and our instant review is that this is a worthy play and a spirited first-rate production by a polished professional group - and right here in our back yard!
There are Talmudic references in the script of "Imagining Madoff." But that is not what makes it a Talmudic play. No, it is Talmudic because it creates a drama of debate and dispute over cosmic issues brought down to earth as a dialogue between metaphoric characters. That is what the Talmud of Babylonia did for Jewish thought 1500 years ago.
This play is not about the real Bernie Madoff who was the greatest financial scammer in history, Nor is it about an Elie Wiesel type of character who represents a loud moral voice in an amoral world.
No this play is a work of Talmudic discourse where the playwright weaves into dialogues and discourses - a variety of dialectics about life. Deb Margolin has given the two main characters names, Madoff and Galkin. And she has created a third important woman character who sits and observes on the sidelines.
Throughout, this play has no real connection to actual persons living or dead. And that may be the case for much of the materials in the actual Talmudic literature as well. (But that is a topic for discussion in the learned world of academic publications.)
The Talmud is a long and engrossing work of literature that takes up numerous issues related to life and to Judaism, to men and to women, to emotions and to ideas, and puts them into the mouths of larger than life rabbinic figures.
And so is this play. Not quite as long as the Talmud, and not as comprehensive. Still playwright Margolin manages to raise penetrating moral, ethical, psychological and philosophical issues within the parameters of a three person drama.
Michael Bias dazzles in his understated and calm portrayal of the Bernard Madoff character, Though we never met the actual man, we imagine that Madoff must have put on a soft and remote persona to attract so much investment. Here Bias plays the busy earthy scheming human archetype, a foil for his lofty universal counterpart.
Thom Molyneaux excels as as that counterpart, the sage Solomon Galkin, with a persistent and learned character portrayal of a Wiesel substitute. We did meet Elie Wiesel and know him to be a masterful listener and a persistent voice of conscience. Molyneaux plays the rabbinic Galkin with such aplomb, we'd swear on a Bible that the actor is Jewish, if not Orthodox, though he is not.
And Mikeala Kafka shines as Madoff's secretary. She represents the perspective of the outsiders, both men and women, who watched as a great cosmic tragedy unfolded as the Madoff crisis unraveled. Here she stands in for the world at large - playing for us a single peripheral character who suffers stinging loss and humiliation when the tragic character falls. Many of us can identify with the perspective of the thoughtful and sensitive sideline casualty that Kafka creates. (And Kafka, what an ironic name for the actor that plays that character!)
Though this is a play mainly of monologues and dialogues, it moved quickly and never lagged or lost me. You'd be foolish to miss it. Hurry and get your tickets.
Go today and buy your tickets here. The Facebook page is here.
Summary from the Garage Theatre:
But above and beyond anything else, Imagining Madoff concerns itself with the terrible beauty and magnificent danger of absolute faith, either in God or in Men.
Imagining Madoff is a suspense drama crafted from a story that is already known. We share as an audience a sense, even to the end, that we can change what's already past.
It is a moral investigation.
Imagining Madoff is directed by Frank Licato and features Michael Bias as Bernard Madoff, Thom Molyneaux as Solomon Galkin, and Mikeala Kafka as Madoff's secretary.
There will be 12 performances of Imagining Madoff, Oct 25 – Nov 18. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm.
Every Thursday is Bergen County Night. If you live or work in Bergen County, tickets are just $20.
At the conclusion of each performance there will be a talk back with the audience. The talk back will include the actors, director and the playwright. By giving our audience, both young and old, this opportunity, we hope to inspire a new generation of theatre goers.
All performances are at the Becton Theatre, 960 River Road on the FDU campus in Teaneck.