By Sarah Kricheff

Published July 07, 2006, issue of July 07, 2006.
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Divorce is never a simple affair, but it’s certainly made easier when the couple is childless. The exes go their separate ways and, hopefully, find happiness and new love. However, the intriguing premise of “Hard Love,” by acclaimed Israeli playwright Motti Lerner, complicates the issue.

Hannah and Hershel, two young ultra-Orthodox newlyweds, are forced into divorce when Hershel renounces his religion. After the split, each remarries and has children. Their children grow up, meet and inevitably fall in love. This creates a slightly awkward situation, to say the least. Twenty-five years later, Hannah and Hershel reunite for the first time to discuss their predicament. As the discussion moves beyond their children’s problematic relationship, the play takes on larger issues such as the pros and cons of Orthodoxy, particularly for women; the existence of God; personal choice, and faith.

“Hard Love” ran for more than a year at the Haifa Municipal Theatre, and the play was presented February in its European premiere at the Teatro Argot in Rome, as part of its Mediterranean festival. Directed by Jeffrey West, “Hard Love” will be brought to Chicago by North Carolina’s Theatre Or, which presented the play in June 2005 in an acclaimed American premiere production.

Victory Gardens Theater, Downstairs Mainstage, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago; Aug. 5-20; Wed.-Fri. 7:30 p.m.; Sat. 8 p.m.; Sun. 2:30 p.m.; $30, $35. (773-871-3000 or www.victorygardens.org)

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