Herschel (right, Richard Aiello) and Shmuel (Evan Sokol) in “The Unveiling” (Photo/A. Lerner)
Herschel (right, Richard Aiello) and Shmuel (Evan Sokol) in “The Unveiling” (Photo/A. Lerner)

Holocaust survivor haunted by his past in new play

Long-buried secrets emerge as a Holocaust survivor bares his breast in a new play that presents the conundrum of the immigrant torn between safety and fear.

“They still have to be careful — always careful,” said Linda Ayres-Frederick, author of “The Unveiling,” which will premiere at the Phoenix Theater in San Francisco this month.

The full-length play examines how one man’s decision can affect an entire family. After his nephew arrives in the United States, a survivor named Herschel Rabinovitz must confront ugly truths from his own past. Rabinovitz has secrets to hide, and when he decides to tell all at his synagogue, there’s fallout for both him and his daughters.

For 72-year-old Ayres-Frederick, the play has roots in her own family history. “It’s a combination of many, many aspects of growing up, my experience as a first-generation American,” she said.

Though Ayres-Frederick’s parents came to the United States before the war, they never lost their sense of paranoia and uncertainty. “In the play, there is that sense of being outsiders,” she said.

Ayres-Frederick, who also performs, is the artistic director at Phoenix Theatre in San Francisco, where the play will run from Oct. 7 to 28, with a preview performance on Oct. 6. The director is Julie Dimas-Lockfeld.

Although it’s a Jewish play — “I’ve always felt it needed to be done in the fall because it is the High Holidays,” Ayres-Frederick said — the playwright hopes it will touch anyone who has a family, and who has lived with the rivalry and love that entails. “It speaks to everyone,” she said.

“The Unveiling,” Oct. 6-28 at Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason St., S.F. $15-$30 ($15 for Oct. 6 preview, $40 for Oct. 7 opening night and reception).

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.