New York and Connecticut theater reviews and news

Ethnic Theater - Jewish

"A Night in the Old Marketplace"
CD Recording

“A Night in the Old Marketplace,” based on a 1907 play by the noted Yiddish writer I. L. Peretz, has just been turned into a musical piece—and one must thank G-d for that!  This haunting work has yet to be staged, but meanwhile there is the score, which is quite enough to absorb.

We were recently sent the CD and found ourselves absolutely blown away by the experience. We bow in acknowledgment to composer Frank London and lyricist Glen Berger, not to mention the superb cast of performers and musicians on this CD.

What is it about “A Night in the Old Marketplace”? Why does it inspire awe, reverence, joy, fear, and chills down the spine? Alexandra Aron, who produced and adapted the play, explains that her source was “a Yiddish masterpiece….a sprawling Jewish ghost story reflecting hundreds of years of Jewish life and folklore….”

And on listening, we realize that it is our own story, we Jews of European ancestry. It taps relentlessly into our own roots, helping us to understand and acknowledge our own history.

“Marketplace” is neither a pretty nor an easy tale. Its themes deal with death, faith, longing, madness, passion. The everyday shtetl world (which more often evoked humor in tales of I. B .Singer and other writers) is here peopled with ghosts, spirits, demons—and G-d himself. Thus we have gritty reality mixed with wild imagination and soaring poetry, a reaching beyond the physical reality. The music is mostly spelled out in a minor key, with a score that moves beneath the skin, invades the guts. Among the twenty-one songs are “All is Vanity,” “It Doesn’t Matter,” “A Tavern in Pinsk,” “What is Man’s Worth?” and “Meet Me in the Old Marketplace.”

These artists have found their vision through an eclectic music which mixes klezmer, jazz, classical, and rock, not to mention the world of Kurt Weill. Derivative? Yes, as all works of art are, but at the same time unique—a reworking of old material and taking it to an entirely new level. We long to see this remarkable piece mounted on stage and hope that perhaps the Folksbiene or another company will have the courage and genius—and the wherewithal--to take it on.

-- Irene Backalenick
Apr. 2, 2007

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