The triple-barreled name Michael Tilson Thomas brings to mind gentility, aristocracy even. In fact, it is sort of prophetic: the real Michael Tilson Thomas is one of America’s blue-chip composers and conductors, a debonair figure whose elegant, long limbs and silver-draped hair suit the name well.
But if Thomas had had it his way, his name would have been something quite different: Michael Thomashefsky. “Thomashefsky” was the surname that of his paternal grandparents, whose names are synonymous with American Yiddish theater.
Jewish mothers are a staple of Jewish humor, but as freewheeling as Jewish mother jokes may get, they do not typically relate to Mary, mother of Jesus. Now comes Michele A. Miller’s slapstick comedy, “Mother of God!,” in which what Christians deem the “greatest story ever told” is reframed as the tale of a dysfunctional Jewish family in ancient Nazareth. The play opened last week at the Richmond Theater on East 26th Street.
It happened a century ago, but the terrible memories remain seared into our collective consciousness. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire on the Lower East Side, in which 146 Jewish and Italian garment workers died, was a defining event in the history of immigrant life — and death — in New York.
There is not much ambiguity in the 14-line Talmudic story known as “Sota.” As a parable about adultery, the tale is pretty straightforward: a husband accuses his wife of cheating on him, and then orders her to drink from a special fountain with “bitter water.” If she’s guilty, she’ll die; if she’s innocent she’ll be blessed with fertility.
The question of whether people can escape their fate is at the center of Chana Porter’s new play, “Besharet” (the Yiddish word for destiny). In the play, the inaugural production of AliveWire Theatrics, an encounter with the supernatural upends the lives of a Jewish attorney and his wife, causing deeply submerged memories and feelings to erupt. “Besharet” opens this weekend at P.S. 122 in the East Village.
Ted Merwin |
Special To The Jewish Week
She seems both alive and dead at the same time, a plucky, precocious girl whose life was tragically cut short at 15. How perfectly appropriate then, that Anne Frank is played by an amazingly life-like marionette in Rinne Groff’s “Compulsion,” a play about the Jewish writer Meyer Levin’s obsession with Anne Frank’s diary.