'Everything Is Illuminated' Gets a West Coast Premiere at Aurora

Based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, the play features a Jewish-American writer searching in remote Ukraine for the woman who saved his grandfather’s life when the family shtetl in Poland was obliterated by the Nazis.


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Everything is Illuminated has an East Bay premiere this month at Aurora.

Photo courtesy Aurora Theatre

A story about a long journey, the play Everything Is Illuminated has had a convoluted journey itself to its West Coast premiere at Berkeley’s Aurora Theatre Company. It started with the acclaimed 2002 debut novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, featuring a Jewish-American writer also named Jonathan Safran Foer searching in remote and rural Ukraine for the woman who saved his grandfather’s life when the shtetl in Poland that was his family’s home was obliterated by the Nazis.

The fictional Foer is guided by a colorful and chatty Ukrainian named Alex who speaks amusingly bizarre English, along with Alex’s supposedly blind grandfather and his “deranged” seeing-eye dog Sammy Davis Jr. Jr., and the story goes back and forth between Foer’s journey and the long, fictionalized history of the now-erased shtetl itself.

The book was soon followed by a 2005 movie starring Elijah Wood, written and directed by actor Liev Schreiber. The unrelated stage adaptation coming to Aurora was written not long after that by playwright Simon Block. The play premiered in London in 2006 and first made its way to the states in Chicago in 2013.

Helmed by outgoing artistic director Tom Ross, now in his last season with the company, the strong cast of the Aurora production features Adam Burch, Lura Dolas, Jeremy Kahn, Marissa Keltie, and Julian Lopez-Morillas. It’ll be fascinating to see how such a tangled and intricate tale translates when pared down for the stage.

Everything Is Illuminated, Nov. 9-Dec. 9, Tue., Wed., Sun. 7 p.m.; Thu., Fri., Sat. 8 p.m.; Sun. 2 p.m.; $35-$70; Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison St., Berkeley, 510-843-4822, AuroraTheatre.org.

This report was originally published in our sister publication, the East Bay Monthly.

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