Theater

Beefing Up The Backstory Of ‘An American In Paris’

Creators of revival seeking to convey the emotional toll of the occupation and the Holocaust.

03/24/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

For Broadway producer Stuart Oken, there are few career moments as transformative as receiving an invitation from the Gershwin family. A lifelong fan of Gershwin’s standards and symphonic works, Oken jumped at the opportunity for a meeting where he was asked to adapt the 1951 film, “An American in Paris,” into a Broadway musical. However, as a producer specifically of new musicals, Oken was hesitant about developing a show that “felt like a revival”; in other words, that it felt old. Adding to that was the film’s vague storyline and tenuous historical context.

The cast of “An American in Paris.” The new script is rewritten “as a more complex narrative.” Angela Sterling

Two Brothers, One Bomb

03/17/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

While Iran’s nuclear ambitions weighed heavily on the minds of many Israeli voters as they went to the polls this week, a play opened in New York that asks whether or not two wealthy Jewish brothers from the Upper West Side should have invented the atom bomb in the first place. Jack Karp’s new drama, “Irreversible,” centers on J. Robert Oppenheimer (Jordan Kaplan) and his younger brother, Frank (Josh Doucette) who beat out the Nazis in the race to build the atom bomb only to be staggered by its power of destruction and to oppose the creation of the even more powerful hydrogen bomb. The play, which is directed by Melanie Moyer Williams, runs through March 29 at the 14th Street Y.

Jordan Kaplan, Amelia Matthews and Josh Doucette in “Irreversible.” Bruce Cohen

KulturfestNYC Is Folksbiene’s ‘Gift To The City’

Yiddish theater marks 100th anniversary with international Jewish performing arts festival, set for June.

03/10/2015
Culture Editor

It’s like the Summer Olympics of Yiddish, without the competition.

In a week of back-to-back performances, Yiddish will be heard in multi-accented songs, shouts and whispers on stages throughout the city, when the National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene presents KulturfestNYC, an ambitious celebration of its 100th anniversary being billed as a major international Jewish performing arts festival.

The Folksbiene’s Bryna Wasserman, left, and Zalmen Mlotek, right, with lyricist Sheldon Harnick. Michael Priest

The Handwriting On The Wall

03/10/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

Hindsight may be 20-20, but for the Jewish Berliners in Iddo Netanyahu’s Off-Broadway play, “A Happy End,” set just after the fateful 1932 elections that solidified the power of the Third Reich, the decision about whether or not to leave Germany is both irrevocable and monumental. As a Jewish physicist and his wife, Mark Erdmann (Curzon Dobell) and Leah (Carmit Levite), struggle with the prospect of giving up the life that they know in exchange for a safe haven abroad, they are forced to confront their Jewish identity in ways that they had never anticipated. The production, which is currently in previews, runs through March 29 at the Abingdon Theatre Company in Midtown.

Cast of “A Happy End,” with playwright Iddo Netanyahu, seated at left.  Nicole Rollo

Curb Your Expectations

Larry David’s ‘Fish in the Dark’ doesn’t move swimmingly along.

03/10/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

A swaggering, self-centered, utterly unsympathetic “hero.” An awkward social situation in which said character displays how greedy, grasping and manipulative he can be. A series of comic reversals in which the character receives his comeuppance and must decide whether or not to repair the relationships he has so heedlessly destroyed.

Rosie Perez and Larry David in “Fish in the Dark,” David’s play about death and dysfunctional family dynamics. Joan Marcus

Theater With An Ecumenical Bent

‘The Church Of Why Not’ previewed.

03/05/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

When two Manhattan Methodist churches merged in 1937 to become The Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew, few could have imagined the role that the Upper West Side building would ultimately play in the religious life of the city. Since 1991, it has shared its West 86th Street space with Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, along with Ethiopian Evangelicals, LGBT Christian Latinos, and other faith communities.

“Church of Why Not” focuses on the spiritual journey of a bar mitzvah boy played by Nathaniel Gotbaum. Joel Weber

Russian-Jewish Identity, With Circus Staging

03/03/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

For Jews living in the Former Soviet Union, a rap on the door could spell disaster — the KGB might be about to burst in and drag them off to a terrible fate. Anna Zicer, founder and director of  the Lost and Found Project of Folksbiene RU, the Russian-language division of the National Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene, believes the stress of living in fear and doubt is also familiar to Russian-Jewish immigrants, many of whom are still struggling to adjust to American society.

Scene from “Knock: A Journey to a Foreign Country.”  George Itzhak

Staging A Conflict’s Complexity

02/24/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

My favorite proverb,” theater artist Aaron Davidman says, “is that your enemy is someone whose story you do not know.” His new one-man show, “Wrestling Jerusalem,” which hits that theme head-on, will be performed this weekend at the JCC Manhattan. “People often ask me to explain what is going on in the Middle East,” he said. “My play is an 85-minute, 17-character answer to that question.”

A multiplicity of voices: Aaron Davidman’s “Wrestling Jerusalem.” Aaron Davidman

Odets, Dreaming Of A Better Life

02/10/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

No one summed up the boiling frustrations of struggling New Yorkers during the Great Depression better than Clifford Odets. While Odets languished in obscurity for decades, he was rediscovered about a decade ago, with landmark Broadway revivals of “Awake and Sing!” and “Golden Boy.” Now comes an Off-Broadway production of “Rocket to the Moon,” Odets’ drama about a Jewish dentist whose life and career are at a standstill. It opened this week at the Theatre for St. Clement’s in Midtown, as a production of the Peccadillo Theatre Company, which is devoted to rescuing overlooked plays with high literary merit.

Katie McClellan and Ned Eisenberg in a new production of Clifford Odets’ “Rocket to the Moon.”  JD Urban

Tara’s Minorities

‘Women of the Wind’ looks at two secondary characters in the Civil War drama and their Russian-Jewish acting coach.

02/03/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

Nothing marked the end of an era in American history as spectacularly as “Gone With the Wind,” the film that displayed the crumbling of the Southern aristocratic way of life in the years following the Civil War. But as Barbara Kahn shows in her new play, “Women of the Wind,” the movie ironically truncated the careers of some of the women who worked on it — women who could not overcome intolerance in American society. “Women of the Wind” opens this week at the Theater for the New City, 75 years after the premiere of Victor Fleming’s cinematic masterpiece in December 1939.

Butterfly McQueen (Adrienne Powell), Alla Nazimova (Steph Van Vlack) and Ona Munson (Reanna Armellino). Robert Gonzales, Jr.
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