New York and Connecticut theater reviews and news

Ethnic Theater - Jewish

Upcoming Jewish shows in New York

Will the upcoming New York season offer many plays of specific interest to Jewish theatergoers? It certainly seems so, judging by the advance notices this reviewer has already received. We explore these shows herewith, to help theatergoers make their plans in advance, particularly for short-run pieces.

For starters, a unique Japanese show (yes, Japanese), returns to New York to make a brief appearance. The drama (in Japanese with English sub-titles) is at the Kaye Playhouse, Hunter College from Oct. 21-24.

Why should this interest Jewish audiences? Because the play, titled "Senpo Sugihara: The Japanese Schindler," deals with a Japanese consul in Lithuania who saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. This man, Chiune Sugihara, risked his career, his family, and in fact, his life to distribute handwritten visas to the doomed Jews, saving them from execution. As he explained it, it was the moral thing to do.

The play about this modest hero, written by Koichi Hiraishi, has proved to be a long-running hit in Tokyo and elsewhere, in fact touring worldwide. And in this current tour it moves on to American University in Washington, DC, following this New York run.


In stark contrast, a new zany comedy invades the New York stage on Sept. 28 (with an official opening on Oct. 21). "Jewtopia" already shocked and delighted audiences in Los Angeles, it would seem, and now the original cast arrives in New York to do their damage at the Westside Theatre Downstairs.

What's it all about? "Jewtopia" depicts two 30-year-old single men, Chris O'Connell and Adam Lipschitz. Chris, the gentile, wants to marry a Jewish girl who will make all decisions for him. Adam promises to sneak him into the Jewish world-and from then on (according to advance notices), all hell breaks loose. A satire of two differing cultures and differing values! Like a Jackie Mason show, "Jewtopia" spares no one. It's no holds barred, no safety for any one.


And finally a quick glance at what the venerable Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre has in store for us. (Folksbiene, now in its 90th season, is purported to be the longest continually running theater in the country.)
But the old lady is certainly healthy! For starters, Folksbiene presents on its main stage a comedy with songs by Abraham Goldfadn (reputed to be the father of the Yiddish stage). The show, "A Novel Romance" (Di Kaprizne Kale) runs from Nov. 21 to Jan. 2. This Goldfadn piece, which premiered in Romania in 1877 and played here in 1882, gets its chance to shine again.

The Folksbiene also offers a series of staged readings called "Hidden Treasures." These readings, beginning on Oct. 10 with Isaac Bashevis Singer's "A Devil's Play" (A Shpil Farn Tayvl), contines with similar works of Yiddish classics throughout the year. Its children's program is lively as ever, with "Kids & Yiddish: The Mishegas Continues!" a holiday show that runs from Nov. 21 to Jan. 2.

The Folksbiene, now under the vibrant leadership of Eleanor Reissa and Zalmen Mlotek, has other offerings in store throughout the year, too numerous to mention here. The theater, now in residence at the JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave., can be contacted directly for further information.

Thus, a brief sampling of what is to come, a quick look into the future.

-- Irene Backalenick
Sept. 29, 2004

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