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'Talking with Angels'

In "Talking with Angels," a Hungarian and three Jewish friends receive dialogues from beings they call angels as the Nazis sweep across Hungary, capturing and deporting Jews.

Shelly Mitchell performs her one-woman dramatic adaptation of the dialogues at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 8, at Havurah Shir Hadash, 185 N. Mountain Ave., Ashland. The play is co-sponsored by St. Clair Productions.

Mitchell's play is based on the journals of Hungarian Gitta Mallasz, who, together with her three Jewish friends Hanna Dallos, Joseph and his wife, Lili, who said they received the messages during the holocaust in Budapest.

On June 25, 1943, Mallasz and her companions received the first of 88 dialogues from beings they called angels.

Mallasz wrote down the angels' words, spoken through Hanna, who said that she was filled with a bright light, but there was nothing joyous about it. The friends had been deeply disturbed by the increasing numbers of arrests during the period of political tension and terror caused by the Nazis.

Joseph was deported to a concentration camp, prompting Mallasz to search for a way to save Hanna and Lili from a similar fate. An influential friend told her of a secret plan to save 100 Jewish women and children by setting up a factory in a vacant cloister in Buda. Mallasz became commander and her two friends workers.

On Dec. 2, 1944, Hungarian Nazis stormed the gates of the cloister. Mallasz escaped. Lili and Hanna were sent to the concentration camp, where they later died.

Hanna had often told Mallasz that, of all of them, she must survive and give the dialogues to the world. In 1960, Mallasz moved to Paris, married, and translated the dialogues from Hungarian into French.

The dialogues were published in Paris in 1976 as "Dialogues avec l'Ange." In 1988, they were published in English. Mallasz died in 1992.

Mitchell first adapted Mallasz's "Talking With Angels" as a one-act play for the 1999 San Francisco Fringe Theater Festival. After winning Best of the Festival, Mitchell performed it at San Francisco's Magic Theater in 2000. Encouraged by the overwhelmingly emotional and positive audience response, Mitchell scheduled five showcase performances starting Sept. 19, 2001, in New York City.

After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11th, "Talking With Angels" opened as scheduled at the Milagro Theater on Manhattan's Lower East Side. The show sold out and was invited back to New York in May 2002.

Since then Mitchell has performed "Talking With Angels" more than 200 times at various theaters on both the East and West coasts and in Ireland at the Dublin International Theatre Festival.

Mitchell was nominated as Best Solo Performer by the Bay Area Theater Critics Circle in 1999. She trained in New York City with Lee Strasberg and is a graduate of Circle in the Square Theatre School. Mitchell is artistic director of The Actors Center of San Francisco, where she teaches film and theater acting.

Tickets are $18 in advance, $20 at the door and $10 for youth age 12-17. Tickets are available at the Music Coop in the A Street Marketplace, online at www.stclairevents.com or by calling 535-3562.

Shelly Mitchells will perform the one-woman show “Talking with Angels” on March 8. - St. Clair Productions