TRIBECA — A new solo play at a small TriBeCa theater tackles the poignant, sweet and funny story of actress and playwright Jane Elias’s complex relationship with her dad, a Greek-Jewish immigrant, who, like many parents, was keenly focused on his daughter finding a husband and having children.
But the story of “Do This One Thing For Me,” like Elias’s relationship with her father, is also deeply influenced by his harrowing personal history. Her dad, Beni Elias, was a Holocaust survivor who lost his entire family, aside from one sister, when they were all forced into concentration camps, including Auschwitz, during World War II.
“I didn’t really set out to write a story about the Holocaust,” said Elias, a longtime New York City actress in independent theater, who plays herself, along with all the other roles, in the show. “I wanted to write about him and me, and that [the Holocaust] happens to be a big part of our lives.”
The play, which will run from Jan. 15 to the 19 at Access Theater, moves back and forth between Elias' loving banter with her overprotective, marriage-obsessed dad, intercut with her father's first-person memories of his heartbreaking experience in Nazi concentration camps.
Elias, 40, who lives in Brooklyn Heights, also made her own pilgrimage to Poland to retrace her father's steps through concentration camps in the second half of the play, a trip that her father refused to take with her.
“He didn’t want to relive that time,” said Elias, who grew up with her father and Israeli mother in Long Beach, Long Island. “But I think everything he did was influenced by his experience, and the play explores how his experience also influences the next generation."
Elias’s dad, who died several years ago at the age of 82 from a sudden brain hemorrhage, never got to see the play, or get his wish to see his daughter happily wed, but Elias said this play is a lasting tribute to him.
“I think the need to carry on his story is part of having children or a family," said the actress, who is unmarried, "part of why my dad was maybe so intent on me settling down — and to a certain extent, this play is my way of carrying on my family history."