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'Teshuvah, Return' Journey at Tamarind

October 14, 1994|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY

T eshuvah is a Hebrew term meaning roughly "a return to the fold." For Vicki Juditz, a Gentile woman who has converted to Judaism, the "return" was circuitous but predestined.

Juditz believes that her very Jewish last name indicates that her forbears were once Jewish, and that her own present-day conversion is quite literally a "return" to the faith of her ancestors. In Juditz's one-woman show "Teshuvah, Return," written by Juditz and directed by Alan Kirschenbaum at the Tamarind, Juditz traces the route of her religious pilgrimage, which began as an effort to hold the interest of a recalcitrant Jewish boyfriend.

The boyfriend couldn't make a commitment, but Juditz could. After a few false starts, Juditz fully embraced Judaism when a visit to an aunt and uncle in Germany sparked an epiphany of sorts. Herself of 100% "pure" German blood, Juditz realizes that, for the most part, the atrocities perpetrated against the Jews were committed and countenanced, not by monsters, but by ordinary people like herself.

Soft-voiced and wispy, Juditz possesses a prim self-possession and a talent for dialects. One only wishes that her gentle humor, so effective at intervals, were more in evidence throughout.

Relentlessly chronological, Juditz's autobiographical narrative, while clearly heartfelt, is filtered through a strained reverence that is ultimately deadening. In an effort to drive home the horrors of the Holocaust, Juditz recapitulates entire scenes from the famed Holocaust documentary "Shoah," an approach that seems impersonal and emotionally evasive.

Like great poets, truly great monologuists carve new pathways through the familiar. Juditz's pedestrianism leaves this "Return" trapped in the thicket of good intentions.

* "Teshuvah, Return," Tamarind Theatre, 5919 Franklin Ave., Hollywood. Mondays-Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Ends Nov. 9. $10. (213) 466-1767. Running time: 2 hours, 5 minutes.

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