“The Sabbath Girl” by Cary Gitter, which debuted at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El on Dec. 11 as part of Theatre Ariel’s new season, is somehow both timeless and modern.
Gitter balances those two qualities in a love story between the two main characters, both in their early 30s: Seth, a divorced Orthodox Jewish man who has moved out of his insular community, and Angie, an Italian woman who runs a hip New York City art gallery.
In doing so, the playwright crafts a story that is not only timeless and modern but relatable.
“The Sabbath Girl” has two more Theatre Ariel shows this weekend. Even though both are virtual, you shouldn’t miss them.
As one audience member, Alan Fogel of Bala Cynwyd, explained after the performance, “The Sabbath Girl” portrays a common experience. Two people making an unexpected connection.
It also features a conflict that often arises after such a connection is made. The two people are from different backgrounds and, as Fogel put it, “How do they bridge that?”
Seth lives in the Upper West Side apartment building that Angie has just moved into. They meet when Seth knocks on the door to ask his shabbos goy, who used to live there, to help him out.
As Angie becomes Seth’s new Shabbos goy, their connection sparks.
But the art curator, at least for a while, can’t bring herself to choose the Orthodox Jew who runs a knish store over the hot new artist she’s courting for her gallery. Seth, on the other hand, has trouble convincing his sister, who runs the knish store with him and is trying to set him up with an Orthodox girl, that Angie would be an acceptable partner.
“It’s a depiction of people’s humanity,” Gitter said.
At the same time, in a Q&A after the show, Gitter reminded the mostly senior audience that Seth and Angie are both millennials. It’s an important detail because their burgeoning relationship captures a millennial conflict.
We want both the freedom to be ourselves and the connection that comes with community. But how do we balance those desires?
Seth wants to maintain Orthodox Jewish practices yet expand beyond his insular community. Angie wants to keep moving forward in her successful career but also, unlike in her past relationships, find a good, reliable and rooted man.
Seth represents tradition and the desire for more modernity, while Angie represents modernity and the desire for more tradition. Together, they symbolize the urge to balance the two, and both can sense that, in each other, they may have found that balance.
There’s nothing more timeless than a relationship rooted in the spark of connection. And modern relationships, increasingly so, are vessels of stability in stormy seas.
Gitter’s characters have the spark. And by the end, when they finally agree to go on a date, you get the strong sense they may have started building the vessel, too.