Written by:Lori Alamia
Place yourself in someone else’s shoes…
Quite a bit of theater is for entertainment purposes and a fun escape from reality. Yet, there is also some theater that delves deeper. Its purpose is to make us think and explore social and psychological issues. It is this latter kind of theater that Cause Celebre produces and this kind of show that is The Shoemaker by Susan Charlotte.
Starring the incredibly talented Danny Aiello,The Shoemaker tackles difficult subjects – 9/11 and the Holocaust. Aiello is an Italian-Jewish shoemaker running his shop in Hell’s Kitchen, New York.
The Shoemaker started as a one act play 10 years ago and was made into a film, titled A Broken Sole. Directed by Antony Marsellis, it is currently running in its expanded two act version, until August 14 at the Acorn Theater. Each show is followed by a discussion with Aiello, which helps give a greater appreciation of the show and the message behind it.
Set designer Ray Clausen succeeded again in creating the perfect setting for the show. The shoe shop has worn, pale green walls and musty looking shades on the door and window, showing signs of time, age, and wear. Shelves include shoes in various stages of repair, mostly unclaimed from previous owners.
Within the first scene, the shoemaker is confronted with a customer, Hilary, well played by Alma Cuervo. Hilary, a school teacher, enters his shop demanding that the sole of her shoe be repaired. One shoe completely wore through after walking for miles. He does not want to take her and insists his shop is closed. She ultimately persists and the shoemaker agrees to add a temporary sole. During this time, it is revealed that the day is 9/11. A young woman, Louise, who came to him for a repair earlier that morning, might have been on one of the high floors of the towers that day. It is an unsettling scene to watch as you feel the tension between these two characters as Hilary tries to discover more about Louise’s whereabouts and the shoemaker diverts the topic to his own daughter and her love of facts. These same facts, the shoemaker tries to avoid. Facts that link back to his heritage and his father dying in the Holocaust after being left behind with his grandmother.
At the end of the first act, Louise, assumed to be dead, appears. Yet, in Act Two, we realize his time with her is a memory of the discussion he had with her earlier that morning. Louise, played by Lucy DeVito, is cute and bubbly and has a comfortable, almost father-daughter, dynamic with Aiello on the stage.
When Louise exits, Aiello is alone and consumes our attention. He is angry and distraught as he hears the voice of his father, overwhelmed by sufferings of the past and the tragedy that has just occurred in New York.
While perhaps a bit of a stretch to some to connect 9/11 and the Holocaust, it does make sense in the case of human emotion and tragedy. Throughout our lives, when we are confronted with tragedy, it reminds us of personal sufferings we have had before. It is also then that our human empathy can connect us through difficult times and give us hope. In the end, empathy and hope are what The Shoemaker is all about.