Ethnic Theater - Jewish
"A Jew Grows in Brooklyn"
American Theatre of Actors, Manhattan
Entertainer Jake Ehrenreich runs the gamut—from cleverness to corn—as he views his life through songs, jokes and vignettes. This one-man show (with a back-up of four solid musicians—Ray Grappone, Ted Kooshian, Dave Solomon and Elysa Sunshine) carries on the genre so pervasive here in New York. It gives performers an opportunity to air their family tribulations, explore their family histories, while also finding an outlet for work. It is therapy on the hoof, shared with an audience.
Nothing wrong with this approach. In fact, it has produced some fine works of late. Ehrenreich, a genial, likeable performer, whose strength lies in song rather than comic delivery, does hit high moments. His theme throughout the show is his coming to terms with his own identity. His parents, Holocaust survivors, were immigrants to this country, and Ehrenreich himself, growing up in Brooklyn, longed to be 200% American. For him, the early years were spent playing stickball and other ball games on the street, with baseball the symbol of everything American. Not surprisingly, he changed his name from Yankel (Jake) to Jack.
With a mellow, pleasing voice, he carries the audience through Yiddish lullabies, Catskill pop ballads, rock music of the ‘60s and ‘70s. At the same time, with several very poignant anecdotes, he fleshes out his family and particularly his father, and moves through his own career which began in those Catskill resorts.
But when he involves the audience—a very willing audience, as it happens—he descends to the level of an amateur performer at a bar-mitzvah or wedding reception. It could be anybody’s cousin recruited for the occasion. These tiresome, at times embarrassing, exchanges alter the mood.
Yet, Ehrenreich, like his father before him, emerges as a survivor—and an admirable one at that.
-- Irene Backalenick
April 9, 2006