Theater

Preparing For The Inevitable

Waiting for the Nazis in the shadows, in ‘Mr. M.’

04/05/2011
Special To The Jewish Week

Waiting for the unknown can be filled with terrors of its own. In “Mr. M,” a new work by Vit Horejs’ Czech-American Marionnette Theater, live actors and puppets combine to tell the story of a Czech Jew (Ronny Wasserstrom) during the Second World War who lives in such dread of being summoned by the Nazis that he takes on physical trials to prepare himself to undergo deprivation and torture. Adrienne Cooper performs Yiddish songs live as part of the production, which will be presented at both the Theater for the New City and at the JCC in Manhattan.

Ronny Wasserstrom, above, stars as the title character in “Mr. M.” The production at the Theater for the New City.

Second Avenue Runs In The Family

Michael Tilson Thomas remembers his grandparents, the Thomashefskys,
and the heyday of Yiddish theater.

03/29/2011
Staff Writer

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.

In “The Thomashefskys,” Michael Tilson Thomas, recounts a good part of the history of Yiddish theater.

Mary, Quite Contrary

03/15/2011

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.

Scene from Michele A. Miller’s slapstick comedy “Mother of God!”

Putting A Face On Triangle Victims

03/08/2011

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.

Gusta Johnson and Amanda Yachechak in scene from Barbara Kahn’s “Birds on Fire.”

The Art Of ‘Sisterhood’

Israeli artist Ofri Cnaani challenges the Talmudic Sota story.

03/01/2011
Staff Writer

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 Talmudic story called “Sota” focuses on two sisters.

Anne, With Strings Attached

Puppets are moving, but ‘Compulsion,’Patinkin are less so.

03/01/2011
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.

Hannah Cabell, Mandy Patinkin and the life-like marionette portraying Anne Frank in “Compulsion.” Joan Marcus

Matthew Lopez’s Ambivalent Seder

‘Whipping Man’ playwright discusses what the Passover meal says about freedom and redemption.

02/22/2011
Special To The Jewish Week

Passover is, for many of us, an unequivocally joyful holiday. The tablecloth is set with fine china and sparkling silverware, the children are freshly scrubbed, and the seder rejuvenates us with its theme of freedom and rebirth.

Jay Wilkison, André Braugher and André Holland in the pivotal scene from Matthew Lopez’s “The Whipping Man.”

Black And Jewish, Searching For Home

02/15/2011

How are children affected by a parent’s racial and religious identities? In Lian Amaris’ new one-woman play, “Daddy’s Black and Jewish,” which premieres next week in the East Village, the performance artist reflects on her relationship with her adoptive father, the radical black intellectual Julius Lester, who converted to Judaism in 1982.

Lian Amaris’ “Daddy’s Black and Jewish” explores the impact her adoptive father, Julius Lester, has had on her identity.

Meyer Levin’s ‘Obsession’

Two current plays look at the writer’s quest to dramatize Anne Frank’s diary.

02/15/2011
Special To The Jewish Week

He was one of the leading literary lights of the 20th century, but it was another writer’s work that became the object of his obsession. Meyer Levin was a prolific Jewish writer who struggled fruitlessly for three decades to get the world to pay attention to his play about Anne Frank. Now, three decades after his death, Levin finally gets his due with two different plays about his quest on view simultaneously in New York.

Anne Frank, as puppet, and Mandy Patinkin in scene from "Compulsion."

Freedom Seder?

‘The Whipping Man,’ with Passover at its center, revisits the horror of slavery in the South.

02/01/2011
Special To The Jewish Week

With its overarching message of freedom and redemption, Passover seems better suited to America than any other Jewish holiday. And one of the most striking aspects of Passover in this country is the appeal that it has for non-Jews, especially African-Americans

Jay Wilkison, André Braugher and André Holland in Matthew Lopez’s “The Whipping Man.”
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