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Leibman, Kushner back in `Dybbuk’

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Ron Leibman is back onstage speaking Tony Kushner's words. "I can't get rid of him," Leibman said.

At the Joseph Papp Public Theater, they are both deep into previews for "A Dybbuk: Between Two Worlds," Kushner's new version of the classic Yiddish folk tale about a rabbi confronting a young bride possessed by the spirit of a former lover. They worked together on "Angels in America," for which they both won Tonys in 1993."I remember when I first read the script of `Angels,' " Leibman said. "It shocked me. I remember thinking he doesn't write like anyone else. I loved that. I couldn't fit him into any category."

He said the same was true with "A Dybbuk," which is to open on Nov. 16. "The language of the play is a special language. It's not modern American speech, and it's not shtetl speech. It's Kushner-speak, highly poetic and yet humorous."

Leibman got the script last July while on vacation in Malibu, Calif. "It was a funny place to be reading `A Dybbuk,' " he said.

Leibman described himself as "not really a very religious person," but said he found that the old Jewish story had more resonance for him than he anticipated. He said Kushner's new take on the story includes some foreshadowing of what the 20th century would mean for Jewish culture in Eastern Europe.

Leibman said his work with Kushner this time was just as rewarding and demanding as it had been on "Angels," especially given the playwright's practice of constant rewriting during rehearsals.

"It's always nice to be asked to come back," Leibman said. "You say: `Oh, they like me. I'm invited back to the party.' "

- Rick Lyman