Job - the story of a simple man, Roth

Teatrul Evreiesc de Stat, Bucharest, Romania

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Mendel Singer, a devout Orthodox Jew, with his wife and four children, is living a miserable existence as a religious teacher in Zuchnow, a shtetl in tsarist Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century. His youngest son, Menuchim, suffers from epilepsy, but neither there is enough money for treatment nor the necessary believe in medicine. Because of his strong faith and trust in God, Mendel is convinced that only the Almighty alone will decide on a possible cure. As years go by the children are growing up: Jonas, the oldest, is pushing for the army and yearns to live a simple life as a peasant free from the all-dominant paternal traditions; the second-born Schemarjah dreams to see the big world and flees to America to escape military service; Mirjam, the daughter – to the horror of her father – hooks up with Cossack soldiers, having countless sexual affairs. Only Menuchim doesn't seem to change and even after years speaks no more than a single word. 

In search of a better life and to save Mirjam from the consequences of her own passions, Mendel finally follows his son Shemarjah, taking his wife and daughter to America. But the New World has no place for their youngest. Even if the father's heart breaks, the family has to leave Menuchim behind due to his medical condition. But the separation is not the last stroke of fate Mendel Singer has to suffer, rather with emigration his ordeal is only about to begin: on different sides of the Great War he loses his two eldest sons, making his wife Debora die of grief, the daughter is sent to the mental hospital and Mendel finally finds himself alone in a foreign land. In face of all his misery he curses the last thing he has left: his god.

 

In his novel Job, published in 1930, Joseph Roth sends his protagonist Mendel Singer on an odyssey based on the biblical book of Job. A simple man quarrels in despair with God and at the height of his torment finally experiences an unexpected miracle: the reunion with his long lost and now recovered son. Roth transfers the biblical story to the beginning of the 20th century. The topic of Jewish mass-emigration to America here is combined with the doubt about the meaningfulness of personal suffering in the face of economic hardship and the catastrophe of the First World War. Joseph Roth's Job is a story about Jewish identity and the loss of home in a world, where materialism is given more value than empathy and human warmth.

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stage and costume design: ...
translation: Alma Andreescu