Ethnic Theater - Jewish
"Don't Leave It All to Your Children!"
Actors Temple Theatre, Manhattan
It’s a chance for four old-time troupers to strut their stuff, to pull in the audiences of comparable age. It’s a chance to recall the Jewish humor of the Catskills. It’s a chance to visit the Actors Temple Theatre, located in the heart of Broadway—a setting which recalls both Judaism and Jewish entertainment. (At one time many Jewish actors frequented the Temple, while they performed in the neighborhood.) If nothing else, a visit to the Actors Temple is to immerse oneself in Jewish entertainment history.
But is there any other value to this “senior” show, appropriately titled “Don’t Leave It All to Your Children”? Does Ilson and company deliver? Does this program work?
As it turns out, Ilson’s tunes are appealing, but the comic routines are pure cornball. The cast of four includes two comedians (old-timers Ronnie Schell and Steve Rossi) and two seasoned singers (Barbara Minkus and Marcia Rodd). With show-biz make-up, coiffeurs, and rhinestone-studded attire, the women are both decorative and skilled. Not bad for two dames of uncertain age! Morever, Minkus has strong comedic skills in her own right and delivers a delightful rendition of “A Singles Cruise.” And Rodd can wring the poignancy from a ballad.
But the men, alas, fall flat on their rear ends as they exchange stale jokes. Granted that this Jewish humor which reaches back to the Catskills should have nostalgic appeal, recalling the old-time Jewish comics. But Schell and Rossi (though both are at home on stage) are faint facsimiles of the past.
Another mistake may be Ilson’s attempt to reel in the baby-boomers, as he calls them, warning them of their entry into their ‘60s. He even offers a song—“You’re a Boomer” early in the program. But in today’s world this segment of the population is more middle-aged (in full flower of their lives) than elderly. As evidenced by the audience, it is an older group which is concerned about legacies to their children—and other age-related issues.
Perhaps we did not see enough of this show to pass judgment (having to leave mid-way because of illness), but we had a good sense of what this effort was all about.
All told, Ilson has an idea worthy of development. With today’s growing senior population, ever-expanding and ever more visible, Ilson should have a built-in audience and solid tickets sales. Certainly the potential is there. But this show needs a return to the drawing board and, most definitely, needs to be recast.
-- Irene Backalenick
June 2, 2009