Theater review | thru Aug. 25

Closing out the Phoenix Theatre"s 19th season is this year"s second play on their underground stage that addresses being Jewish. Where Alan Berks" Goats (part of the Basile Festival) was one man"s exploration of his faith, The Action Against Sol Schumann examines a family"s struggle with the Holocaust from a new perspective.

Rob Johansen plays Aaron in the Phoenix"s "The Action Against Sol Schumann"

Set in the 1980s, the show is inspired by an actual case. Here, we have Michael and Aaron, the sons of an Orthodox Jew. Michael, the younger of the two, is married to a non-Jew and doesn"t pursue his faith, politically or religiously, as vehemently as his brother Aaron. Both are fiercely dedicated to their father, Sol. When Sol is accused of being a kapo - a prisoner who acted as an overseer of other prisoners in a camp - the family must come to terms with an altered version of their history, and at the same time deal with Sol"s potential deportation.

Written by Jeffrey Sweet of Bluff fame, and directed by Martha Jacobs, the show is incredibly powerful and compact in its presentation. At about an hour and 40 minutes, you are thankful for no intermission, because the minimal use of props and no "set" allows the audience to focus instead on the stunning character portrayals. You are swept into the action and remain there for the duration. The script is well-written and unique in its conflict. Ideas not often explored are vividly created and dealt with, supporting an intriguing story and characters.

The cast features several of Indianapolis" favorite names. Diane Kondrat plays a journalist who happens upon Aaron, and sticks with him out of sheer fascination. ShadowApe"s Rob Johansen performs an inspired Aaron, a high-strung, confrontational and opinionated-to-the-extreme Jewish activist who manages to be funny, likable and non-offensive. Bill Simmons, as Michael, is Aaron"s laid-back, easy-going brother.

While each of these players provided nothing short of a fantastic performance, the cast was completed by equally talented supporting characters. Lauren Morris Bertram, Sharon McDonald and Marc Allen Hardy, just to name a few, all had some truly amazing moments.

I found some of the scene transitions a bit abrupt and disorienting (a table crosses the stage more often than some of the actors), but the feeling passed and I was back inside the action, caring as much as Michael and Aaron how things would turn out. The Action Against Sol Schumann continues through Aug. 25, Thursdays through Sundays. Call 635-PLAY for tickets.

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