New York and Connecticut theater reviews and news

Ethnic Theater - Jewish

A round-up of current Jewish theater in New York

Theater in New York City continues to show the Jewish influence.. Even when shows do not deal specifically with Jewish themes and characters, the influence of Jeewish writers, composers, directors continues to be pervasive. Below is a round-up of the current scene.

First, as to Broadway theater—The only undeniably Jewish show is Mel Brooks’ “The Producers.” Though the magic team of Nathan Lane/Matthew Broderick no longer holds forth, the show continues to work very well with continuing cast replacements. But Sarah Jones’ excellent one-woman show “Bridge and Tunnel” (until March 12) features a number of New York ethnic types, Jewish characters among them. This show dazzled us off-Broadway, and we hope its transition to the big stage has not lessened its power.

Moreover, underlying Jewish talent is certainly pervasive. Neil Simon is represented by both “Barefoot in the Park” (in open run) and a limited run of “The Odd Couple” (with the Lane/Broderick team once again). Julie Taymor directs the wondrous, “The Lion King,” running through early June. Then there’s Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” and Stephen Schwartz’s “Wicked” (both in open run). And, proving the role of legacies, Richard Rodgers’ grandson Adam Guettel has created the hauntingly beautiful “The Light in the Piazza” (my very favorite in recent years), running until early July.

As for upcoming shows on Broadway, Clifford Odets’ classic “Awake and Sing” (with a stellar cast) opens April 17, and Kurt Weill/Bertolt Brecht’s “Threepenny Opera” opens shortly after. The big news here is that Alan Cummings plays MacHeath. As for other Jewish playwrights, with shows coming to Broadway: “Well,” Lisa Kron’s one-woman show about tsuris with her mother (opens March 30), Richard Greenberg’s “Three Days of Rain” (April19--June 18) and Herman Wouk’s “The Caine Mutiny Court Trial” (opens April 14--in open run).

Off-Broadway is a more extensive scene, though the shelf life of shows are apt to be unpredictable. Currently on stage is the long-running “Jewtopia.” While I found this piece tasteless, its popularity is proven by its long run, having opened in September 2004. Several intriguing shows (which I’ve not seen) will, unfortunately be closing at the end of this month: “Lenny Bruce….in his own words,” Susan Sontag’s “A Parsifal,” and “Retzach” (English translation—“Murder”) by Israeli playwright Hanoch Levin.

As to upcoming off-Broadway shows: F. Murray Abraham will be playing in both Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” and Marlowe’s “The Jew of Malta,” with both plays in rep. Dates to be announced. The fetching little Israeli actress Meital Dohan will be returning this spring with her show, “Bath Party,” in which she shows off her shapely limbs, and emotes, lying in a bathtub. Dohan is outrageous, but looks good. Israel Zangwill’s 1908 drama “The Melting Pot” arrives in March, and Richard Greenberg’s new piece “The House in Town” arrives at Lincoln Center in June.

So much for the Jewish touch. But New York is teeming with all kinds of theater all over town--several hundred on any given night. Visitors to the city should sample its diverse wares.

-- Irene Backalenick
Feb. 7, 2006

Sign up for our mailing list