Anna recently performed the role of Hennie Berger in Clifford Odets’ Awake & Sing at New Village Arts. This was the San Diego professional premiere of an 82 year-old play about a depression-era working-class Jewish family from the Bronx, which achieves an unwelcome currency in our own troubled American times.
Daughter Hennie’s aspirations for a better life are cut short by unwanted pregnancy and a loveless marriage to Russian immigrant Sam, who is ensnared in mother Bessie’s act of nuptial subterfuge, before her cynic-in-arms ex-lover Moe offers a way out.
Anna felt the burden of feminist representation in portraying a woman of strength and independence who is nonetheless trapped by social conventions of “respectable” families in the era. She challenged herself to strike a balance between historical accuracy and staying true to the character’s feisty nature, a hard sell for the audience, given that her most defiant act is one of child abandonment!
None of this was lost on the San Diego theatre community. James Hebert of The San Diego Union-Tribune remarked “there is such depth of apprehension and resignation, leavened by the slightest bit of hope, in the eyes of Rebek”. David Coddon of San Diego City Beat praised Anna’s “affecting” performance of a woman “yearning to breathe free”. San Diego Jewish World noted how “witty and acerbic” her performance was.
But the last words go to Anna herself: “Playing Hennie has helped me appreciate my sass, my freedom, and my chance to fight for the life I want!”