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NoHo LA - January 18, 2005
Jacob Clark

The always challenging Eclectic Company Theatre is presenting the West Coast Premiere of Emily Mann's Annulla in a production filled with love, tears, laughter, and hope.

Annulla tells the true story of a Holocaust survivor now living in London, who gives an oral history of her life to the playwright in 1974. Emily Mann frames the story in a ninety minute interview at tea time. The playwright portrays herself as a witness to the truth of Annulla's life, not as an interrogator, so the play avoids being a question and answer session. Instead, Annulla delivers her story directly to the audience as if the audience were Emily Mann, making the spectators perform an active role as witnesses to the history.

The history itself is not delivered in a linear fashion, but in bits and pieces, as Annulla serves tea and prepares chicken soup on a real stove. The tears and outrage of the play are laced with laughter, drawing the audience into the experience to glimpse the horrors and the hope of the play on an intimate level.

Jeff G. Rack's realistic set, complete with running water, is much more than just a working kitchen, as the irregular yet formalistic walls reveal space beyond the set, a perfect reflection of the wider importance of the intimate history.

The play requires a tour de force performance by an actress, and
Eileen De Felitta's transcendent performance is well up to the task. De Felitta reveals the suffering of the character, as well as the warm and humorous idiosyncrasies of the role. A recurring comedy in the performance is the character's referrals to a six-hour play she has penned, which "needs a little editing." De Felitta skillfully probes the comedy one moment, while delivering a vision of hell on earth the next. It is a performance deeply felt and freely given. The light of hope for humanity which burns brightly in De Fellita's performance gives a riveting sense that love cannot be extinguished by hatred. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.