Theater

Staging A Conflict’s Complexity

02/24/2015
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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
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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
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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.

Tapping Into Race, And More

01/27/2015
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Opposites attract, they say, and no less in same-sex relationships than in opposite-sex ones.

In Margaret Morrison’s first full-length play, “Home in Her Heart,” set in late-1930s London, a young black female pianist and a middle-aged Jewish male impersonator, both of whom are American expats, struggle to carry on an intense romance despite the forces of social repression arrayed against them — not the least of which are the genocidal ambitions of the Third Reich.

Ava Jenkins, left, and Margaret Morrison star in “Home in Her Heart,” about forbidden love in 1930s London. Keith Gemerek

On Borrowed Time

01/20/2015
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Money is such a taboo subject that discussing our sex lives is more comfortable for many of us than revealing our income. For playwright Ben Rimalower, who performs his own one-man show, “Bad With Money,” spending money is a way to avoid dealing with debilitating emotional problems. Jenna Scherer of Time Out New York raves that Rimalower “exorcises his financial demons” in a “purgative hour-long monologue in which he entertainingly (and excruciatingly) itemizes his monetary sins.” The show continues through the end of February in the West Village.

Ben Rimalower stars in one-man show about his abusive relationship with money.  Allison Michael Orenstein

Remembering Mina, A ‘Mother Hen’ To Actors

01/06/2015
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If anyone stood for the vitality of the theater as an art form, it was Mina Bern, the indomitable actress whose career long outlasted the glory days of the Second Avenue Yiddish stage. To mark the fifth anniversary of her death, the Congress for Jewish Culture, in conjunction with the American Jewish Historial Society, is assembling a starry roster of Bern’s former students to pay tribute to the beloved performer. The free program will take place this Sunday afternoon at the Center for Jewish History in Chelsea.

Mina Bern, subject of a celebration at the Center for Jewish History.  Joan Roth

The Man Who Integrated The Bandstand

12/31/2014
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While they often worked together to write and record songs, black and white jazz musicians rarely appeared together on stage in the racially divided world of New York in the 1930s and ’40s. So it was with considerable courage that Barney Josephson, the son of Jewish immigrants from Latvia, opened Café Society on Sheridan Square, a color-blind jazz joint that helped to launch the careers of Billie Holiday, Sara Vaughn, Lena Horne, Count Basie and many other legendary African-American musicians.

Charenee Wade in “Café Society Swing,” the story of club owner Barney Josephson. Carol Rosegg

Caught Between Worlds

S. Ansky’s ‘A Dybbuk for Two People’ resonates with 24/6 company.

12/23/2014
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With all the stress of the holiday season, many of us find ourselves acting a little out of character and wondering afterwards what got into us. How appropriate, then, that the 24/6 theater company, a troupe whose members maintain Sabbath and holiday observance while staging classic and modern plays with a Jewish twist, is presenting Bruce Myers’ celebrated adaptation of S. Ansky’s “The Dybbuk,” the iconic Yiddish play about spirit possession. The play, in which two actors play all the parts, will be presented Sunday afternoon at the JCC Manhattan. This year marks the centennial of Ansky’s writing of the play.

Leor Hackel and Michal Birnbaum star in a new adaptation of an iconic Yiddish play.

Chanukah And Heresy

12/16/2014
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While Chanukah marks the military victory of Mattathias and his five sons over the Seleucid (Syrian Greek) monarchy, it also represents the ascendancy of the Maccabees over their fellow Jews who had become infatuated with Hellenistic culture.

As A Driven Leaf Book Cover

‘Soul Doctor’ Redux

Retooled production of Carlebach musical plays down the counterculture rabbi’s biography in favor of his songs.

12/09/2014
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If anyone saw himself as a fixer, it was Shlomo Carlebach. With the extraordinary power of his original melodies, the wonder-working rabbi traveled around the world beginning in the 1960s, helping Jews who were suffering from drug abuse, loneliness and alienation from Jewish life. Ironically, “Soul Doctor,” the musical about Carlebach’s life and career, has itself been in need of repair. After a highly publicized flop at the Circle in the Square on Broadway last year, the musical returns, Off-Broadway this time, in its 11th incarnation. And now, the creative team believes, the musical has finally found its voice. The retooled show, which is currently in previews, opens this Sunday at the Actors’ Temple Theatre in Midtown.

Josh Nelson as Shlomo Carlebach with his so-called Holy Beggars. Carol Rosegg
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