Ten years on from its original London run staring Samantha Bond and Gary Kemp, playwright James Phillips' play The Rubenstein Kiss makes its Nottingham début at Nottingham Playhouse for their Conspiracy Season.
The Nottingham Playhouse publicity for the play states 'The story is set in 1950s America and in the Cold War period when the McCarthy anti- Communist trials were at their height. The Rubenstein Kiss is inspired by a real life Jewish couple – Ethel and Julius Rosenberg who went to the electric chair for allegedly passing on US atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. They protested their innocence until the very last. James Phillips' play explores what happens when truth and ideologies collide to reveal the anguish of a family and its quest for atonement.'
Director Zoë Waterman has returned to Nottingham Playhouse to direct this fascinating play and the finished result is compelling, stylish, stark but not without rays of humour and superbly acted by all of the cast.
Jacob Rubenstein and Esther Rubenstein are the play's protagonists who idealise Communism. As the quiet married couple actors Joe Coen and Katherine Manners completely encapsulate the characters of this period. These are just two human beings who have to make a life changing decisions that will not only affect them but could ultimately impact on the world in the future. The choices they are faced with are telling 'the truth' betraying their Soviet friends and receiving a long term prison sentence or having to die in the electric chair and suffer eternal public shame.
The themes in the play are about miscarriages of justice, compassion and the power of state control. The Rubenstein Kiss however, is not all doom and gloom. In fact it is mostly an uplifting experience and at its core there is a feeling of hope. It is about people doing the best they can in extra-ordinary circumstances and placing their family at the top of their concerns.
The 1940s/50s story of the Rubensteins, David Girshfield and Rachel Liebermann (Mark Field and Ellie Burrow) is told in flash back through two young people in their twenties who happen to meet at an art gallery showing iconic photographic images of that period. Simon Haines is extra-ordinary in his role of son Matthew and researcher of law and past cases. Equally, Gillian Saker is utterly believable and sympathetic as Anna. A late comer into the play's action is Cornell S John as FBI agent Paul Cramner. John plays his role with a very human touch -strict as the police investigator but seen years later as someone who harbours a great degree of empathy towards the remaining families living with the legacy of the 'case of the century'.
The 'The Rubenstein Kiss' play is a moving portrayal of human dilemmas questioning the nature of loyalty towards family and country and ultimately the big question 'what would one be prepared to die for?' Another superb production at Nottingham Playhouse.
Runs until Saturday 17th October 2015.