"Shekinah," revolves around the tragic, humorous and desperate lives of Post-World War I spiritualists. People who lost loved-ones to WWI or a child to polio made especially easy prey for these practitioners of mystic bunkum, who would abuse the desperate and those whose desperation made them blind. La MaMa E.T.C. will present the play in its First Floor Theater March 5 to 22, directed by Peter S. Case.
Spiritualism has always been a desperate leap of faith and a refuge for the grieving. For those with the skill and cunning to spin silk out of suffering, it was an irresistible opportunity. Much of "Shekinah" involves a trio of such charlatans: a woman named Billie Dove, whose talent as a medium is legendary, and two male cohorts in crime, Henry, a cantankerous old vaudevillian, and Wesley, his young protégé-turned-murderer.
The setting is 1919 Chicago. Billie and Henry have been on the con for a long time when they meet the ultimate mark: a wealthy doctor clinging to his belief in ghosts as his last hope to be a father to his dead son. The craft and mendacity of the threesome are matched against the intelligence and rational humanity of the doctor, who invites Billie Dove to live in his home and channel his ten-year-old son. Abandoning her accomplices, Billie ends up playing governess and caretaker to a thought, a wisp of air and lingering love.
The production will use many of the simple yet effective tricks of the period to reproduce the séance magic performed by sham mediums in the 1920's in the "spook racket." The title of the play is a Hebrew word meaning a symbol or manifestation of God on earth. The title specifically relates to Billie Dove and her ability to convince all those around her, even the skeptical, that she is a vessel for the divine. It also recalls the title of one of the first spiritualist newspapers, which was published in the 1850s.
Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 2:30 pm
Theater: La Mama E.T.C.
Address: 74A E. 4th Street
New York, NY 10003
Buy Tickets Online or Call: www.lamama.org at (212) 475-7710