Company's Coming

Levy lives in a museum of his own creation. Surrounded by keepsakes he has gathered throughout the years and records that he listens to on a ritualistic basis, he has a quiet little existence that is minimal and modest. And then he meets Lillian (Barbara Eda-Young) and her teenage son, Yidl (John Magaro). Lillian Yuralia is a character-driven play written by Barbara Eda-Young and directed by Austin Pendleton that blows the dust off the surface of a man’s life to reveal all the untold stories and quietly dying memories that lie underneath.

Eda-Young’s story, which runs only one hour and fifteen minutes long, crams a host of complexities from three individual lives into a tiny, succinct package that never once says too much or too little.

Lillian and Yidl barge into Levy’s life after they are evicted from their apartment. Moments before they must leave, Lillian overdoses on poison and awakens to hear her son sobbing and Levy (Ben Hammer) pouring a bucket of cold water over her. Panicked, they stumble into his one bedroom apartment against a flurry of objections.

Within moments of their arrival Lillian is vomiting in his bathroom, peeling off her wet gown and drying herself in Levy’s ankle-length robe. Yidl makes a beeline for a shadowy corner where he sits, silently sobbing. Levy stares, barely able to comprehend what has just blown through his door.

Eda-Young is both the star and playwright, which gives her exceptional insight into her flighty, but well-meaning character. She embraces Lillian’s faults without excusing them. Her pain as a mother and ruined woman is evident in her strained, desperate smiles. She steals longing glances at Yidl from across the room, searching for the carefree child she used to know.

Levy senses that something is amiss, which both sobers and baffles him. His guests eventually have a train to catch. He knows their presence is only temporary but what should he do with them in the meantime? Offer them tea? Insist Yidl sit on the chair when he seems determined to remain hunched on the floor?

While Levy tries to asses the situation Lillian gives him her lists of grievances: she fell in love with a man, they had a son, he took care of them, loved them …but he wouldn’t leave his wife. And then he died, too suddenly to provide for them. Yidl read about it in the papers, the truth knocking the words right out of him. In a matter of days he lost his father, his home and everything he knew to be true.

Though Lillian and Yidl’s unraveling relationship is the main focus of the story, it is Levy who provides the bittersweet center. He watches as Lillian brushes the hair off her son’s face, choking on some suppressed emotion. His family was killed in Jewish riots when he was only a teenager. Watching Lillian and Yidl together seems to stir something within him, perhaps because everything they are losing now reminds him of everything he has lost over time.

Levy spends most of Lillian’s visit trying to resist her incessant probing. He says, “I don’t remember,” when asked anything about his past. But when the topic comes to his family he remembers everything: his sister’s bright blue eyes, the sun on his mother’s face as she looked out the window and the games he played with his siblings in a meadow with flowers.

The play’s climatic end comes suddenly and unexpectedly. Until one small, but pivotal moment, it is not clear what kind of terms these new acquaintances will part on. Then something happens, a simple gesture, but enough to alter life’s course and leave the audience with some hope for the characters' futures. Like Lillian Yuralia, this gesture is unassuming and straightforward in its execution but deeply significant and heartrending in the purity of its meaning.

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