New York and Connecticut theater reviews and news

Ethnic Theater - Jewish

"The Golden Land"
Folksbiene, at the Baruch Performing Arts Center,

The Golden Land has returned to the New York stage, thanks to the talented people at The National Yiddish Theatre—Folksbiene. And how lucky for all of us, particularly those of us who recall the immigrant experience of our own parents or grandparents! It is the definitive tale of the eastern European Jews, moving from shtetl life overseas to the golden land.

In this strong new production, the essence of the original show remains intact. On a bare stage, with the simplest of props, the story emerges. Under the flawless direction of Bryna Wasserman (Folksbiene’s Executive Director), the story moves ahead fluidly, blending words, music, choreography. Each scene strikes an emotional chord, certainly for Jews in the audience—but also for any immigrant or the descendant of an immigrant. In short, just about any American should relate to the theme of this glorious musical.

“The Golden Land” takes the Jewish immigrants from their first landing on American shores, to life on the teeming lower East Side, to the uptown moves, to the Depression, to tragedy of the Triangle fire, to growing political awareness, to the Holocaust era. In short, it is the Jewish-American history of the 20th century. For this viewer, the most heart-breaking scene surfaced when the immigrants landed and one man’s family was sent back. (New arrivals, routinely checked for any health issue, were weeded out and rejected.) The song “Lozt Arayn” (“Let Them In) said it all.

The show (created by Zalmen Mlotek, Folksbiene’s Artistic Director, and Moishe Rosenfeld) made its initial New York appearance in 1985. Mlotek and Rosenfeld had researched, assembled and adapted some 48 Yiddish songs (mostly translated into English). And now a gifted young cast — Cooper Grodin, Stacey Harris, Andrew Keltz, Daniella Rabbani, as well as veterans Bob Ader and Sandy Rosenberg, once again brings the story to life.

“The Golden Land” plays off-Broadway at the Baruch Performing Arts Center through December 2. Perhaps, with mahzel, the show will be extended. But don’t take chances. Just hasten down to East 24th Street in Manhattan, while you can..

--Irene Backalenick
Nov. 16, 2012

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