The Arts

Matters Of Identity, Mideast Style

The opening and closing night offerings in the Israel Film Center Festival deal with a similar theme in very different ways.

05/25/2015 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

In the turbulence of the contemporary Middle East, a little thing like personal identity is fragile, evanescent and in jeopardy. That would seem to be the message of the opening and closing night films on display at this year’s weeklong Israel Film Center Festival, which begins June 4.

Director Eran Riklis, whose new film is “A Borrowed Identity.”    Courtesy of Israel Film Center

Not Your Average Arias

05/19/2015 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

‘I’ve always been fascinated by the Holocaust,” playwright Steven Carl McCasland mused recently, as one of his plays was about to open in New York. In one of them, “Der Kanarienvogel,” soprano Elisabeth Schwartzkopf (Anna Kirkland) grapples with accusations that she is a Nazi sympathizer. A cast of more than two dozen actors is presenting a total of five of McCasland’s plays in repertory this month in Kips Bay; the festival also includes “Little Wars,” about a fictional dinner party in which Gertrude Stein has a fateful dinner party with Lillian Hellman, Muriel Gardiner, and other writers, in the middle of which France falls to Germany.

Soprano Elisabeth Schwartzkopf is subject of new play.  Wikimedia Commons

A Measure Of Mercy

‘The Farewell Party’ casts a compassionate and respectful eye on the indignities of Alzheimer’s.

05/18/2015 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

The Disease-of-the-Week movie tends to be a cheap and easy way for artists to assert their virtues. Who could possibly take offense at a film, or for that matter a charity fundraising pitch, that denounces cancer or heart disease? As long as no one raises questions about the environmental, economic or socio-political bases of diseases, as long as we all agree to talk only about “innocent” victims of illness, nobody will complain.

Aliza Rozen as Yana, Levana Finkelshtein as Levana, Ze’ev Revah as Yehezkel, Ilan Dar as Dr. Daniel and Rafael Tabor as Raffi.

Stalin Was One Tough Critic

05/11/2015 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

He was one of the greatest actors of all time, but his life and career depended on pleasing a megalomaniacal monster. In David Schneider’s new play, “Making Stalin Laugh,” Solomon Mikhoels struggles to keep the Moscow State Jewish Theater (known as GOSET) afloat at a perilous time when policies of state were in constant flux; notably unstable were policies toward the arts and the Jews, whom the Soviets alternately lauded for their opposition to Fascism and reviled for their ties to a foreign homeland. New Yiddish Rep presents the play this Sunday and Monday in a workshop production in the East Village.

Gera Sandler stars as Solomon Mikhoels in the New Yiddish Rep’s “Making Stalin Laugh.” Yanay Yahiel

‘To Tell Mizrahi Stories’

Rohr Prize-winner Ayelet Tsabari is a writer on a mission.

05/11/2015 - 20:00
Culture Editor

To read Ayelet Tsabari’s stories is to walk right into the living room of an elderly Yemenite grandmother cared for by a young Filipina woman in Rosh HaAyin, or a loud Tel Aviv bar filled with soldiers in varying degrees of off-duty, or to have tea in a backyard garden on an island off Vancouver, where license plates read “The Best Place on Earth.”

Tsabari’s stories are peopled with the children and grandchildren of imigrants from Yemen, Iraq and Morocco.  HarperCollins

Taking His Shots

Argentine-Jewish director Martin Rejtman on comedy, the New Argentine Cinema and fiction writing.

05/11/2015 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

It was a situation out of one of his films.

Martín Rejtman sat down to answer questions for an e-mail interview while he waited for his plane from Hong Kong to New York in the departure lounge Sunday. Then his computer seized up. Eventually he found himself working on a communal machine in the departure lounge, typing hurriedly as the time for boarding approached.

Martin Rejtman’s films are characterized by taciturn, deadpan humor. Courtesy of Cinema Tropical

To Ban Or Not To Ban Nazi Films?

Felix Moeller’s ‘Forbidden Films’ raises that thorny question.

05/05/2015 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

During the Nazi era, the German film industry produced over 1,200 feature films. After the war, some 300 of them were banned by the Allied occupying forces. Today, 40 of those films are still banned in Germany. The only permitted screenings of them take place in scholarly settings, and unauthorized showings are punishable by law.

Scene from Gustav Ucicky’s Nazi propaganda film “Homecoming,” in “Forbidden Films.”  Courtesy of Zeitgeist Films

And Baby Makes…

05/04/2015 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

Overpopulation may pose a dire threat to the planet, but how often does it factor in a woman’s decision about whether or not to have a baby? In Steven Somkin’s new play, “Melissa’s Choice,” a feminist Jewish attorney finds herself caught between her principles and her desire to procreate. Like Wendy Wasserstein’s 1988 play “The Heidi Chronicles,” but within a 21st-century framework, “Melissa’s Choice” centers on a woman who struggles to “have it all” — to be fulfilled in terms of her deepest yearnings and values. The play is running on Theatre Row in Midtown.

Steven Somkin deals with women’s contemporary choices in “Melissa’s Choice.”

Reconciling With Mom

Alice Eve Cohen’s memoir, ‘The Year My Mother Came Back.’

05/04/2015 - 20:00
Culture Editor

Alice Eve Cohen didn’t expect her mother to take center stage in her memoir. But as she was writing about a very challenging year in the life of her family, her late mother seemed to appear, on the page and at the kitchen table.

Alice Eve Cohen’s newest memoir recounts a difficult year in her adult life.  Janet Charles Photos

An Exit Ramp Off Weill’s Epic ‘Road’

Goal of slimmed-down version of ‘The Eternal Road’ is to ‘get it back into the repertoire.’

04/27/2015 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

Even in a city addicted to eye-popping spectacles, Kurt Weill’s “The Eternal Road,” which opened in New York in 1937, was the most extravagant musical production that anyone had ever seen. Intended as a wake-up call to Americans about the worsening plight of the Jews of Germany, the show centers on a rabbi who employs stories from the Hebrew Bible to teach a Jewish boy about his heritage, even as demonic forces gather around the synagogue where the lessons are taking place — forces that the boy may be able to defeat once his education is complete. A new, slimmed-down, concert staging, using one of the work’s original titles, “The Road of Promise,” comes to Carnegie Hall next week with Broadway veteran Ron Rifkin in the cast, along with eight operatic soloists.

Veteran actor Ron Rifkin stars as character who doubts his religion in “The Road of Promise.” Courtesy of ABC Television
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