On Saturday August 13, 2022 the Southampton Cultural Center presented the play, “The Soap Myth,” by Jeff Cohen. It received a standing ovation. The Saturday evening crowd knew beforehand that this was not going to be any ordinary play.
That is because the Illinois Holocaust Museum, an organization “dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Holocaust by honoring the memories of the Survivors and by teaching universal lessons that combat hatred, prejudice, and indifference,” was instrumental in producing this play. This is a play with an important message.
Director Harris Yulin over the course of his long-acting career has achieved a certain status for being known as one who delivers a high-level performance in every role. As a director of “The Soap Myth,” he is able to draw from the acting talent of this small four person cast and deliver a huge message.
There is never a doubt the veteran actor Bob Gunton is the driving force of this production as he portrays Milton Salzman, a holocaust survivor. Mr. Gunton is superb at being the force to be reckoned with and a man on a most important mission. His performance is alone worth the price of the ticket.
Then there is something special in this production. That being the performance of Maddie Rubin. She is the glue, the electricity and promise of the future in this show. Portraying journalist Annie Blumberg, Ms. Rubin handles the gymnastics of the lines and emotion of her part. She delivers the role of narrator and conscience of the production excellently. Ms. Rubin is a recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s musical theater program. Director Yulin has her new shining talent glow off Bob Gunton’s star quality, making for the best chemistry. At times both an explosive and then gentle chemistry.
Carolyn McCormack delivers a contrast in her two roles. Ms. McCormack, who has a litany of honors for roles acting both on the stage and behind cameras, is quite effective in both her roles as keeper of the gate and a Holocaust denier. Her portrayals of both Esther Feinman and Brenda Goodsen display her huge diverse dramatic talents. She shows how and why she is so capable of taking over an important scene.
John Rubinstein’s diversity is also displayed in his playing of his two roles of a Comic, and of Daniel Silver. A true professional, John Rubinstein demonstrates his skills, his talents, and his insights with every word in every one of his lines.
There can be no denying the excellence that Director Harris Yulin staged with his four actors to create intense, powerful, meaningful drama. Mr. Yulin’s sense of timing, motion, direction and volume of his actors’ lines, movements and gestures is masterful. He takes the skills and talents of his cast to the point that the audience stands and applauds after such a heavy content play.
Heavy content play meaning a play that amplifies the cries of those voices that will never be heard yet never forgotten, along with the horrific stain of the holocaust. The idea that this play, “The Soap Myth,” dramatically and effectively deals with the controversy of the Nazis’ converting the fat of some of the Jews they massacred into soap is a testament to the skills and brilliance of playwright Jeff Cohen. This play is a “must see,” but even more importantly, a must “never forget.”