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Queens Chronicle

A playwright finally gets his chance to shine

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Posted: Thursday, October 17, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:40 am, Thu Oct 17, 2013.

It has taken nearly half a century, but the fact-based drama “Resistance” from the pen or, more recently, the computer, of Kew Gardens resident and playwright Lawrence Bloom is finally going to be seen in its entirety by an audience.

It is being given a one-time only read-through at the Bay Terrace Jewish Center with a cast drawn primarily from the temple’s resident troupe, Theatre By the Bay.

Bloom began writing the play as part of an independent study course he was taking in 1966 while attending Wilmington College of Ohio.

The play, which is set in 1946 Palestine, is based to a large extent upon the efforts of Hungarian-born freedom fighter Dov Gruner to establish Israel as a free state. Gruner was executed by the British Mandatory Authorities for attacking a police station a year before his dream was to come true.

Bloom had read about Gruner’s struggles for the cause and “was so moved” that he decided to adapt the story to the stage.

“I added in dramatic elements,” Bloom said, including a love story centering on a young couple with different religious backgrounds. He completed the play early in 1967 and dedicated it to the memory of his own father.

“I put it in the drawer and I forgot about it,” he said. About four or five years ago, he dusted it off and presented a reading of an excerpt from the play. Earlier this year, he picked it up again.

Bloom has remained in contact with his professor across the years and though his mentor now suffers from Alzheimer’s, Bloom is hoping he will be able to read it.

Despite the passage of time, Bloom believes the play remains relevant.

“The feeling when someone is willing to give his life for a cause, that’s still true today,” he said.

Bloom described the subplot as “the struggle of young people and the parents who try to understand them. It’s an age-long struggle. Everyone is fighting for their own place. The themes are universal,” he said.

Bloom is staging the piece “like a concert version. The people in a scene will come forward. They will have scripts in their hands. It’s about the words, the story and the actors’ abilities.”

Included in the cast is Bloom’s son, Steven, a professional actor who plays one of the leading roles, resistance member Benjamin Yosef.

“He’s headstrong, idealistic,” the younger Bloom said of Yosef. “He’s passionate in what he believes in.”

According to the actor, readings pose special challenges. “You’re painting a picture for the audience in a different way, asking them to heighten their imagination,” he said.

He agrees with his father that the play’s appeal is in its subject matter, saying, “It’s not only about Israel and Palestine. It’s about so many cultures and regions of the world today.”

Another member of the company is Bonnie Sassower, for whom the play is particularly resonant.

Sassower plays Yosef’s mother, Sarah, a woman she calls “emotionally strong,” saying, “She stood by the side of her family and has been victimized by what happened in their lives.

“These are all stories that I hear,” she said. “My heart goes out. I can only imagine the emotions one had to go through.”

Following the performance will be a question-and-answer session with the audience.

If the response is encouraging, Bloom would like to further develop the play, perhaps converting it into a screenplay. It was an idea that he ran by another Theatre By the Bay alumnus, Jennifer Petruccelli, who studied filmmaking at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

“He approached me to read the script,” Petruccelli said. “All summer we would go back and forth. I gave him a lot of visual hints. He’d rewrite. We’d discuss. I felt it was filled with such drama, such potential.”

‘Resistance’ reading
When: Sunday, Oct 20 at 2 p.m.
Where: Theatre By the Bay
Bay Terrace Jewish Center
1300 209 St., Bayside
(718) 428-6363

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