Shul takes place in a shabby run-down synagogue that has been there for generations, but membership has dwindled in recent years to the point where there are only a handful of members left. They gather on this day to discuss the option of selling their beloved shul, since they can no longer afford the upkeep and it's rarely used. It doesn't even have a Torah (and as I heard someone behind me say, "then you don't have a synagogue"). Longtime members Nate (Raye Birk), Miriam (Nancy Marvy), Friedman (Paul Schoenack), and Ezra (Charles Numrich) disagree about what to do, and look to their new young president Abe (Avi Aharoni) for guidance. Another member none of them have met before, Golden (Nathaniel Fuller), shows up and pushes for selling; he's harboring a grudge against his family who were founders of the synagogue, but didn't treat him so well. Real estate agent Heidi (Dexieng Yang), who has a history with Abe, also pushes them to sell for whatever they can considering the amount of repair work that is needed. But when the prospective buyer John (Jôher Coleman) turns out to be Sikh, they're given pause; if they can't find a Jewish buyer, they'd like the building to be used for non-religious purposes. But their options are limited, and difficult decisions need to be made balancing tradition with reality.
|Charles Numrich, Avi Aharoni, Raye Birk, and Nathaniel Fuller|
(photo by Sarah Whiting)
|Charles Numrich and Nancy Marvy (photo by Sarah Whiting)|
Such are the questions brought up but not answered by Shul, a timely and relevant new play. Membership to religious institutions may be dwindling, but there was a full house when I attended MJTC this weekend. People are still congregating to share stories, remember our history, and grapple with the future. That gives me hope.
Shul continues at the Highland Park Center Theatre through May 19.