The Immigrant, starring Doug Kaback in his return to the stage, might just be a case of kismet.
“It certainly has felt like kismet,” says Kaback, who stars in the current production at The Promenade Playhouse on the Third Street Promenade. “Many times during the process of bringing this play to production, challenges would occur and improbable, wonderful solutions would emerge.”
Kismet, as defined by one very large Random House Dictionary, means fate or destiny.
It might just be kismet that this is Kaback’s first role since losing his wife more than five years ago. At that time he was in a production of the play Shim Ch’ong performing at The Getty Center and going on tour to the National Theatre in Seoul. But with two children to take care of, Kaback had a more important role to pursue.
“With the new role of being a widower and father, I had to scale back all my professional pursuits,” says Kaback. “It’s been a bit of a journey into the underworld, mourning a beloved wife, it really changed my whole perspective on what I was pursuing in my life, this is my way to kind of revive that.”
It also might be kismet that after being away from acting for so long, it would be a fellow congregant at the Santa Monica Synagogue who would bring Kaback back to theater.
The congregant in question is also the director of the play, Mark Schwarz. It was his idea to do a table read of The Immigrant, which was written by Mark Harelik and follows the true story of his Jewish immigrant grandparents who land not at Ellis Island, but in Texas.
A while back, Schwarz had been thinking his community had not been doing enough in the way of supporting the arts. He decided it was time to do something.
“If I want more art, then what am I going to do to bring art?” recalls Schwarz.
So he decided to have a staged reading of The Immigrant. And he knew precisely the man for the lead — Doug Kaback.
“I felt Doug was a natural for the role,” says Schwarz. “He gets this guy. He’s got the sensitivity, he’s got the intelligence for it.”
But before they could proceed, as all good Jewish boys know, they had to ask the Rabbi.
“What happened originally is Doug and Mark are members of my congregation,” says Rabbi Jeffrey Marx. “They came to me, and I loved the idea.”
Rabbi Marx loved the idea so much, he offered more than just a reading, he offered to produce an actual staging of the play at the synagogue.
“I arranged some initial funding, and then we had some other congregants who stepped forward behind the scenes,” recalls Marx. “We were packed, standing room only. It was remarkable.”
“It was as rewarding an evening as I’ve had in many years,” says Schwarz.
But how does a night of community theater turn into a professional run? Perhaps that would involve even more kismet?
“In looking for a small theater in Santa Monica, I contacted Natalia Lazarus, who is the artistic director at The Promenade Playhouse,” says Kaback. “She was thrilled to help us produce this at her stage. It turns out that Natalia and my late wife knew each other from childhood in Honduras. So we have some good spirits flowing around our production, offering some heavenly inspiration.”
But is it kismet?
“I guess you could say that,” says Schwarz. “A show I’ve always wanted to do. That required an actor of depth who could bring the central role to life. And a rabbi who believes there is more then one way to tell a story of the Jewish condition. I’m happy to believe we were destined to do this.”
Whoever’s in charge of such high planning as fate and destiny, the end result is definitely here, living and breathing for all the world to see, at The Promenade Playhouse, 1404 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, through Saturday, March 1st.
Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. No performance February 22nd. $20 general admission, $15 seniors, students and groups.
Information, (310) 418-5183 or www.plays411.com/immigrant/.