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Theater review: 'Behind the Gates' at Marilyn Monroe Theatre

May 21, 2010 |  6:30 am

400.Behind the Gates_1 An extraordinary monologue opens “Behind the Gates,” Wendy Graf’s passionate if soapy cautionary tale about religious extremism, now at the Lee Strasberg Creative Center.

Pierced rebel Bethany (Annika Marks) stomps on stage, furious at her privileged parents (Keliher Walsh and James Eckhouse), who send her to Israel to shape up. As the teenager recounts her growing fascination with Jerusalem’s ancient ways, Bethany begins to shed her jeans and Goth style, gradually donning the clothes of an Orthodox woman — a powerful conversion sequence.

Approached by an ostensibly sympathetic rabbi (Oren Rehany), Bethany is drawn into the secretive world of the Haredi sect, which enforces public segregation of the sexes and extreme modesty. Her desperate parents come looking for her, only to find themselves in a labyrinth of languages, beliefs and exile.

Played out on Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s set of stone columns and sheer curtains, David Gautreaux’s staging has a minimalist elegance occasionally at odds with the style of the play, which mixes the tropes of a Lifetime movie with journalistic clarity. What ultimately resonates in this Hatikva Productions drama is the fierce hunger of an adoptee searching for her true home.

– Charlotte Stoudt

“Behind the Gates” Marilyn Monroe Theatre at the Lee Strasberg Creative Center, 7936 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends July 3. $25. Contact: (323) 960-5772 or www.Plays411.com/Gates   Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.

Images: Keliher Walsh, left, Annika Marks and James Eckhouse. Photo credit Ed Krieger.

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