Theater

An Earthbound ‘Soul Doctor’

Show on the life of Shlomo Carlebach aims for spiritual uplift but doesn’t soar.

08/20/2013
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A 2008 Israeli documentary about Shlomo Carlebach, “You Never Know,” features followers of the late rabbi visiting his grave in Jerusalem, recounting stories of meeting him, and talking about the immense impact that he had on their lives.

Higher ground: Carlebach leading his cast of “holy beggars.” Carol Rosegg

Survival Instincts At Fringe Festival

Three solo shows by Jewish performers at the theater festival mine the preservation theme.

08/20/2013
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Fringes are worn on Jewish garments to remind Jews to follow the commandments, to maintain the connection to God that has preserved them as a people. At the New York International Fringe Festival, now in its 17th year, three solo shows by Jewish performers also deal, in very different ways, with the theme of survival. From Mallory Schlossberg’s tale of single life in New York, “Molly Marjorie Rosenblatt Needs a Man,” to Lee J. Kaplan’s harrowing account of being tormented at school, “Bully,” to Evan Brenner’s paradoxical embrace of Buddhism, “The Hungry Ghost,” the Fringe Festival continues, like the fringes on clothing, to point in new and sometimes contradictory directions. 

Evan Brenner in “The Hungry Ghost.” Phoebe Sudrow

The Boy King Before The War

Family musical brings new attention to Holocaust hero Janusz Korczak’s literary legacy.

08/20/2013
Jewish Week Correspondent
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It is difficult to view anything inspired by the work of Janusz Korsczak, the Polish-Jewish physician/author/educator/orphanage proprietor, without interpreting it through the lens of his tragic death.

King Timmy (Cormac Cullinane) and his “cabinet” figure out how to deal with a problem. Carol Rosegg

Vienna, Under The Surface

Mahler, Freud and anti-Semitism in Otho Eskin’s ‘Final Analysis.’

08/14/2013
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Fin-de-siècle Vienna was a city of elegant waltzes, erotic art and witty café conversations. But underneath the shimmering surface, evil overtook the city. In Otho Eskin’s one-act play, “Final Analysis” (no relation to the 1992 Richard Gere film thriller of the same title), a group of real-life Viennese-Jewish artists and thinkers of the period debate the perils that await them with the rise of Hitler. The play opened last week in Hell’s Kitchen, after winning seven awards last summer at the Midtown International Theatre Festival.

Elizabeth Jasicki and Ezra Barnes in “Final Analysis.” Joan Marcus.

Carlebach’s ‘Burning Desire To Heal’

Musical about the controversial ‘voice of Jewish revival’ hits Broadway after long trip.

08/06/2013
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They called him the “Singing Rabbi,” the dynamic performer who transformed Jewish life with ecstatic chasidic melodies. Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach married Jewish teachings with a universal message of peace and love. Now “Soul Doctor,” a new musical based on the man and his music, is coming to Broadway. Yet swirling around the show, which opens next week at the Circle in the Square, are the allegations of sexual harassment that surfaced after his death in 1994.

Carlebach’s higher ground: Peace, love and Jewish teachings.

Resisting Evil

Two families — one Jewish, one not — are thrown together during Hitler’s rise in ‘The Dark I Know.’

07/24/2013
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Relationships are often difficult to sustain, but for the characters in Alex Eisen’s new musical, “The Dark I Know,” they seem well-nigh impossible. Set in Germany during Hitler’s rise, the show centers on the interwoven lives of Jews and non-Jews as they resist the radical evil that is overtaking their society. The winner of this year’s Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, “The Dark I Know” premiered last Sunday in Midtown. Eisen, who graduated from SUNY New Paltz, wrote the book and lyrics; John Watts, an NYU student, composed the music.

Scene from Alex Eisen’s new musical, “The Dark I Know.”

Magic As Social Currency

A pudgy Jewish kid looks for attention in the musical ‘Gary Goldfarb, Master Escapist.’

07/09/2013
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With its aura of invulnerability and air of showmanship, magic has been a powerful draw for Jewish performers. Indeed, from Harry Houdini to David Copperfield, Jews have been over-represented as conjurers and illusionists. Now comes “Gary Goldfarb, Master Escapist,” a new musical by Omri Schein (book and lyrics) and James Olmstead (music) about a suburban Jewish boy who dabbles in magic in order to boost his social standing. It opens) next week at the New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF), which is now in its 10th year.

The cast of Omri Schein’s “Gary Goldfarb, Master Escapist." Photo courtesy NY Musical Theatre Festival

Prohibition, The Jews And Kiddush

Kosher wine plays a role in a play at the New York Musical Theater Festival, ‘The Bootlegger and the Rabbi’s Daughter.’

07/05/2013
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Prohibition reshaped the social ecology of New York, causing immigrants from different lands to make common cause in the interest of continuing to drink. Despite their reputation for sobriety, Jews often enjoyed special access to alcohol because of an exemption in the law for sacramental wine.

Tajlei Levis' new play is about a dutiful daughter who encounters a breath of fresh air in the form of a bootlegger.

Ethel Rosenberg As Joan Of Arc

06/25/2013
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Whether she was a dastardly spy who betrayed her country, or an innocent victim crushed by rabidly anti-Communist government officials, Ethel Rosenberg certainly had a histrionic flair. In Joan Beber’s play, “Ethel Sings: Espionage in High C,” the infamous Jewish wife and mother becomes a martyr of truly operatic proportions, along with her grandiose alter ego, Joan of Arc. The play opens this week in Soho.

Shelby Kocee as Ethel Rosenberg in Joan Beber’s “Ethel Sings: Espionage in High C.”

Shoah Memories At The Deli Counter

06/18/2013
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More than half a century after the end of the Third Reich, the Shoah still reverberates in the lives of the survivors’ grandchildren. In Dana Boll’s new play, “Bella’s Dream,” based on the refugee experiences of her paternal grandparents, memories of the Holocaust keep seeping and bleeding into the present.

Dana Boll’s “Bella’s Dream” deals with grandchildren of Holocaust survivors.
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