Monday, September 17, 2018

80 (2018-2019): Review: SEPARATE AND EQUAL (seen September 16, 2018)

“Slam Dunk”

Something blood-thumpingly stirring is going on at Theater B at 59E59 Theaters. I’m talking about a remarkably tense, brilliantly acted, amazingly well-staged, and socially compelling play about basketball and race called Separate and Equal, written and directed by Seth Panitch (Alcestis Ascending).

Adrian Badoo, Will Badgett, Steven Bono, Jr., Ross Birdsong. Photo: Jeff Hanson.
Every season brings at least one or two plays about sports but the challenge of successfully simulating an athletic match or game on stage is daunting. Boxing can be staged effectively, of course, and a recent rash of plays has shown how, even without balls (or, sometimes, rackets), tennis matches can be excitingly realized through detailed choreography and sound effects.

Stills and video clips are sometimes used to overcome the problem, especially in plays about complex sports with multiple players, like baseball, football, and basketball. Most such plays look to the drama of off-the-field situations, in locker rooms and elsewhere, rather than to creating the visceral excitement of athletes engaged in extended person-to-person conflict. Even Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves, praised for its depiction of a women’s soccer team, focused its rigorous physicality on warmup sessions, not an actual game.

But with Separate and Equal you get equal measures of thrillingly choreographed basketball and powerful human drama about race relations in Jim Crow Alabama, 1951, its inspiration coming from the Oral History Project at the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum. By no means a documentary, this uniquely exciting work comes to us from the heart of Dixie, the University of Alabama, which is coproducing it with the aforementioned museum and the Birmingham Metro NAACP.

Theater B, normally arranged end-stage style (proscenium orientation without the proscenium), has been cleared out by production designer Matthew Reynolds so that its oblong shape can be converted to a small basketball court, with the audience seated in one or two rows around its perimeter.

Overhead, at either end of the court is a video screen on which, at appropriate moments, images of Jim Crow history are projected, including, on one side, a water fountain labeled “white,” and on the other, one labeled “colored.” That fountain will play a significant role in the course of Panitch’s drama.
Company of Separate and Equal. Photo: Jeff Hanson.
Most of the time, during the pickup game that occupies much of the action, each screen shows a hoop. Although no actual ball is used during the game, when a player makes a shot, a perfectly timed image of a ball enters the screen (kudos to Maya Champion’s media design) and either rebounds or swishes through the hoop, sometimes only after hitting the rim or backboard.

Six teenagers play the game, three black and three white. The former are Calvin (Adrian Badoo), Emmett (James Holloway), and Nathan (Edwin Brown III); the latter are Edgar (Ross Birdsong), Jeff Forrest (Steven Bono, Jr.), and Wesley (Dylan Guy Davis). They differ widely in manner and size, Jeff, for instance, being short and wiry, Nathan very tall and slim, and Wesley fat.

The three black boys are warned in no uncertain terms by Lt. Connor (Ted Barton, in one of several roles), a sadistic, racist cop in the mode of the similarly named Bull Connor, to vacate the court, where they’re only allowed to play for a few hours each week. Faced by the officer’s authority, and that of his slightly more congenial partner, Lt. Dixx (Jeremy Cox), the boys behave submissively. Even more painfully instructive is the groveling on their behalf of Two Snakes (Will Badgett, also covering several roles), an elderly black man, whose Uncle Tom-ism clearly comes from experience.

Soon after, three white boys arrive to use the court and, following the expected taunting by the whites, especially from the hateful Jeff, the boys gradually engage in a full court game, hoping to be able to finish before the cops come round again. During the game, the action occasionally stops, with the actors taking a knee, so to speak, as flashback scenes appear in which we learn a bit about a few characters and the influence of the local KKK.
Adrian Badoo, Ross Birdsong. Photo: Jeff Hanson.
Among them are Wesley and his lawyer father (Barton), an alcoholic whose clients include local blacks, and Calvin, whose mother, Viola (Pamela Afesi), is a maid working for Edgar’s mother, Annabelle (Barbara Wengero), prominent in racist circles. There’s also a vignette about a black Korean War vet (Badgett), lynched by crackers (Barton and Cox) for wearing a U.S. military uniform.

During the game, there’s lots of snarling, race baiting, and other nasty stuff—including bending the rules in favor of the whites on fouls—but the two groups gradually do find relatively common ground and a sprinkling of mutual respect. A violent incident, however, interrupts the emerging equilibrium and reminds us of the time and place. Melodramatic as it might appear, history supports the viability of the disturbing conclusion.

Panitch’s unusually well-honed production has each cast member playing at fever pitch. Most remarkable are the basketball sequences, choreographed in awesome detail by Lawrence M. Jackson, and as gripping as anything on the E. 4th Street court in Greenwich Village. Panitch’s script even includes references to online sources showing the styles of basketball greats like Magic Johnson, Lew Alcindor, Bob Cousy, and Larry Bird, each to be used for a particular character.

The game, accompanied by an original jazz score by Tom Wolfe, is a complexly choreographed feast of dribbling, passing, possession (signaled by clapping one’s hands), blocking, leaps, twists, fakes, falls, fouls, and shots that recreates, purely in mime, the relentless pace and activity of the real thing. It’s a tribute to their well-drilled skill that the six actors, working in such close quarters, don’t crash into each other (or us).

For equal measures of visceral theatricality and racially sensitive drama, Separate and Equal is an 85-minute, NBA/NAACP-worthy show that scores a slam dunk against Jim Crow and the KKK.


59E59 Theaters/Theater B
59 E. 59th St., NYC
Through September 30

Sunday, September 16, 2018

79 (2018-2019): Review: UNRAVELED (seen September 15, 2018)

"A Stitch in Time"

Jennifer Blackmer’s Unraveled is the latest example of a play depicting the emotional toll taken on loved ones by an aging parent’s dementia or Alzheimer’s. It’s easy to see why so many playwrights find the subject to be a magnet for potential dramatization. And, while I have no idea if it applies to Blackmer, this is often the case when they themselves are faced with the anguish of having to deal with the mental and physical degradation of someone close. Most of us know people in these circumstances. 
Ladonna Burns, Suzanna Hays (foreground); Kittson O'Neill, Lori Hammel (rear). Photo: Michael Kushner.
The experience is so devastating that playwrights confronting it must often feel the need to purge themselves of their pain by sharing it through the medium of drama. As dozens of recent plays reveal, though, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the trauma of real life translates successfully to the drama of the stage (or movies).
Blackmer’s Unraveled, a generally uninvolving, 70-minute one-act at the Clurman, adds little to the growing genre of plays on the subject, a list of whose recent examples may be found at the end of this review. This well-worn tale of a grown child coming to grips with a parent’s decline makes a frail attempt at offering something new by having the child, Joy Gallagher (Kittson O’Neill), be a professor of time and space philosophy. This allows the dramatist to serve up some didactic mumbo jumbo, including talk about time travel and other theoretical scientific concerns.
Lori Hammel, Suzanna Hay. Photo: Michael Kushner.
Blackmer’s focus on the fluidity of time inspires the structural approach of simultaneously depicting Joy and her mother, George, as they were in Joy’s childhood and as they are now, with dialogue intertwined across two time zones. This, of course, is a well-known device, used frequently in films, to heighten the pathos by contrasting a lovely past with an ugly present. Likewise, it permits a person to ruminate through memory on the meanings of their personal history.

Unraveled’s action weaves back and forth in time to show Joy, as a girl and an older woman (both played by O’Neill), interacting with her youthful mother, Young George (Lori Hammel), and her aged one, Old George (Suzanna Hay), both of them sometimes seen at the same time. Old George’s ailment, it might be noted, is the aftereffect of chemotherapy she received following a cancer diagnosis.
Suzanna Hay. Photo: Michael Kushner.
Young George is vibrant, well-dressed, attractive, and preoccupied with her gardening. Old George, 60 but looking 80, and cared for by an unusually eloquent hospice nurse, Anna (Ladonna Burns), races about in a nightshift, her white hair disheveled, her behavior ranging from singing “The Age of Aquarius” to flashing her breasts to raging angrily at the daughter she only sometimes recognizes.

The single other character is Joy’s sketchily depicted T.A., a doctoral student named Michael (Maxwell Eddy), in love with her. He’s also the author of a scientific paper on physical “entanglements” introduced out of nowhere toward the end to hint at the plot’s human entanglements.
Maxwell Eddy, Kittson O'Neill. Photo: Michael Kushner/
Joy, self-involved, struggles to come to terms with her mother’s illness, which is affecting her career as well as her relationship with Michael. She’s unwilling to accept that the fading woman before her is her once vivacious mother, which causes friction with the tolerant but increasingly exasperated Anna, who insists she's there as much to help Old George as the reluctant Joy herself. Eventually, Anna helps Joy find joy by teaching her to knit, a craft with obvious metaphorical overtones here. Joy is thus able to find a pathway to acceptance of her mother's condition although her epiphany seems more contrived than earned, lacking the catharsis it should provide.
Suzanna Hay, Kittson O'Neill. Photo: Michael Kushner.
Melpomone Katakalos provides a spare but pretty unit set incorporating several simultaneously present locales—garden, living room, classroom, office—against a backdrop of wooden latticework and hanging wisteria. Kate McGee lights it nicely, especially when she transforms the floral colors. And Elivia Bovenzi has designed clothing that suits the characters, including an outfit for Anna that incorporates touching memories from her previous patients. However, having Old George dressed throughout like a demented harridan is a bit of overkill.

As directed by Kathryn McMillan, the spectrum of performances goes from the high quality of Burns as the loving, no-nonsense nurse and Hay as the raving Old George to less inspired work from the others, particularly O’Neill’s unconvincing Joy. Absent a strong, deeply felt, multilayered performance in this role, the already frayed fabric of Blackmer’s fragile play can do nothing but unravel.

*The following list offers the titles of newly written dementia/Alzheimer’s-related plays (as opposed to revivals, like Three Tall Women) I reviewed since starting this blog in 2012. (Soon, we can add Broadway's The Waverly Gallery to the list.) The majority are concerned with children grappling with a parents’ illness: The Father, Pocatello, Dot, In My Father’s Words, My Mother Has 4 Noses, It Had to Be You, The Last Seder, Too Much, Too Much, Too Many; The Humans; The Outgoing Tide; Her Requiem; Smokefall; 20th Century Blues; Peace for Mary Frances; Good for Otto; In the Body of the World; Animal; Man from Nebraska; The Mother of Invention; Mr. Toole; Isolde; Hey, Jude; Pat Kirkwood Is Angry; I Forgive You, Ronald Reagan; These Halcyon Days; The Great God Pan; The Other Place; The Last Will; Pressing Matters; Sundown, Yellow Moon; and A Persistent Memory. And, of course, there must be some I missed.


Clurman Theatre
410 W. 42nd St., NYC
Through September 22

78 (2018-2019): Review: THE EMPEROR (seen September 14, 2018)

“Lord of Misrule”

The Emperor is Colin Teevan’s riveting theatricalization, slightly over an hour long, of Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuścińki’s (1932-2007) controversial 1978 book of that name. I say theatricalization, not dramatization, because the material is essentially a series of monologues providing fascinating information but nonetheless generally lacking the interaction of characters we call drama. Among the controversies the book raised were concerns about its factual accuracy, or what the author himself called “literary reportage.” 
Kathryn Hunter. Photo: Gerri Goodstein/
Considered a veiled jab at Poland’s communist regime at the time and its leader, Edward Gierek, it was translated into English in 1983 (when it was named the Sunday Times’s Book of the Year) and, four years later, turned into a play by Michael Hastings and Jonathan Miller for London’s Royal Court Theatre. Teevan’s is a new adaptation. 

Regardless of its relevance to communist Poland in the 1970s, The Emperor’s continuing value is as a coolly satirical, universal reflection on the excesses and abominations of autocracies everywhere, not least the one that’s growing in our midst. 
Temesgen Zeleke, Katrhryn Hunter. Photo: Gerri Goodstein.
But the chief reason to see The Emperor is the platform it provides for the diminutive British actress Kathryn Hunter, known for her idiosyncratic characterizations of both male (like King Lear and Richard III), female (Shakespeare’s Cleopatra among them), and even nonhuman characters. 

Her recent New York performances displayed her unusual gifts—partly the result of a car crash in her early 20s—as a “virtuoso physical performer.” Among them were Kafka’s Monkey, in which she played the title role, and director Julie Taymor’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where she gamboled as Puck. Hunter's present project, which began in England, is a coproduction of Brooklyn’s Theatre for a New Audience; the Young Vic, London; HOME, Manchester, and Les Théâtre de la Ville de Luxembourg. 
Kathryn Hunter. Photo: Gerri Goodstein.
Hunter is exceedingly well accompanied by Ethiopian-born musician/singer, Temesgen Zeleke, who sits to one side, performing exquisitely melodic tunes on his five-string krar lyre, and also playing four briefly limned characters. The focus, though, is on Hunter’s chameleon-like transformative powers as, combining her research with considerable inventiveness, she covers nearly a dozen different male roles (none of them Selassie); the book has over 30. For each, she adjusts her posture, gestures, facial expressions, and speech. 
Kathryn Hunter. Photo: Gerri Goodstein.
Among the characters are a valet; a menial whose sole task is to wipe the emperor’s dog’s pee from people’s footwear; a zookeeper who feeds the animals meat from a silver tray; a servant who carries the emperor’s pillows and must time their placement beneath his feet perfectly; the emperor’s purse bearer, and so on. Each describes his job while filling us in on Selassie’s extravagances and craving for self-enrichment through “development” in a nation desperately needing “reform” to overcome its suffering from hunger and poverty. 
Kathryn Hunter. Photo: Gerri Goodstein.
As the people starve, the emperor’s ego is assuaged by the construction of such things as His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, King of Kings of Ethiopia and Elect of God, Airport, or His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, King of Kings of Ethiopia and Elect of God, Ring Road and Tunnel. A clip from Jonathan Dimbledy’s powerful 1973 documentary, The Unknown Famine, underlines the disastrous conditions Selassie allowed to fester. Gradually, we learn of the plot to overthrow the emperor and of his ultimate demise at the hands of the Derg government.
Hunter—her wig cropped, scruffy, and gray—wears a uniform that can be civilian or military, its tunic buttoned or unbuttoned, its epaulets in place or removed, as suits each character. She doffs or dons a series of hats and toys with a variety of hand props, like a fly whisk, a cane, or piece of silk. Remarkably limber for a woman in her early 60s, she moves, relative to each character, with fluid grace or puppet-like awkwardness, as per Imogen Knight’s movement staging. During a scene expressing the court’s venture into “International Life,” she even dances funkily to a disco beat (bringing a surprised audience member on stage to join her).
Kathryn Hunter, Temesgen Zeleke. Photo: Gerri Goodstein.
Ti Green’s set, perceptively lit by Mike Gunning, is an open, wood-floored space, onto which a high, white curtain is sometimes drawn or withdrawn. Using little more than a chair, Hunter—flawlessly directed by Walter Meierjohann—delivers her monologues in spotlighted areas, shifting from one to the other as she changes character, the transitions being marked by explosive sounds created by Paul Arditti. When needed, informative titles flash on an upstage background; unfortunately, they’re fuzzy, hard to read, and vanish too quickly.

The Emperor is brief, thematically pointed, and perfectly executed. If you’ve never seen Kathryn Hunter, the moment is ripe.


Theatre for a New Audience
Polonsky Shakespeare Center
262 Ashland Place, Brooklyn, NY
Through September 30

Thursday, September 13, 2018

76 (2018-2019): Review: AGNES (seen September 11, 2018)

“Cracking Her Cheeks”

There’s no need to remind anyone that it’s hurricane season, with a little lady named Florence hurtling toward the Atlantic Coast. Tell that, however, to two emotionally churning plays now playing Off-Broadway, Hurricane Party, the weaker one, down at the Cherry Lane, and Agnes, at 59E59 Theaters. 
Hiram Delgado, Mykal Monroe, Julia Ramadei. Photo: Hunter Canning.
Both concern folks hunkering down to ride out the gathering storm with sex, games, and booze, the first in Conway, SC (a town right in Florence’s path, by the way), the other in New York City. In Hurricane Party, the fictional tempest is dubbed Evelyn (like the 1977 storm of that name), while the similarly made-up Agnes (despite there being a Hurricane Agnes in 1972) gives its name away in the title.

Although unintentional, there are several parallels in the plays. Both use the external hurricane as a metaphor for the internal turmoil roiling the characters’ relationship and feelings, including issues of faithfulness, friendship, and betrayal, expressed in verbal profanity and visually provocative hetero and homosexual behavior.

Both also are set in homes allowing multiple interior locations to be seen simultaneously. Hurricane Party separates the spaces with scrim-covered walls and Agnes (designed by Angelica Borrero)—which places the audience on either side of the tiny Theater C—shows a bedroom at one end, a living room in the middle, and a small kitchen at the other end. Strings of lightbulbs hanging overhead are used creatively by lighting designer Cheyenne Sykes.
John Edgar Barker, Mykal Monroe, Hiram Delgado, Julia Ramadei. Photo: Hunter Canning.
What sets Agnes truly apart is the presence of a 30ish young man named Charlie (John Edgar Barker), a high-functioning, near-genius with Asperger’s, whose own psychological tumult competes for attention with the conflicts raging among the other characters.
Julia Ramadei, Mykal Monroe. Photo: Hunter Canning.
There are five principals in Agnes: Charlie; his younger brother, Ronan (Hiram Delgado); his lesbian sister, June (Laura Ramadei), overly protective of Charlie; June’s lover, Elle (Mykal Monroe), about to enter medical school; and Anna (Claire Siebers), a high school friend of the siblings, who’s arrived seeking safety because her home is in the flood zone. Additional characters, played by these actors, interrupt the action with brief monologues from time to time but aren’t part of the main action.
Claire Siebers, Julia Ramadei. Photo: Hunter Canning.
It’s not long before the seething longings, disappointments, and frustrations of the five swirl together in what playwright Catya McMullen and director Jenna Worsham hope creates at least a Category 1 drama. While it sometimes clicks, Agnes never gets much past being a theatrical squall. In fact, unlike Hurricane Party, which includes a TV, there’s none in Agnes, whose characters barely pay more than lip service to what’s happening outside. Only the occasional intrusion of a sound effect (from designer Daniel Melnick) reminds us of the maelstrom.
Claire Siebers, John Edgar Barker. Photo: Hunter Canning.
Ronan, amusing, upbeat, and defiantly cute, is still shaky following a breakup with his girlfriend. Anna, bisexual and promiscuous, is a free spirit and world traveler, who once had a thing in high school with June. June, meanwhile, struggles to keep her old feelings for Anna under control while contending not only with her affection for Elle, jealous of both Charlie and Anna, but with her inability to process Anna’s involvement with the virginal Charlie. He, for his part, desperately wants to have sex with this attractive guest, of whose erotic high school adventures he’s fully aware.
John Edgar Barker. Photo: Hunter Canning.
All the characters wear more or less grungy clothes designed by Nicole Slaven. However, Elle’s complaint about Anna’s inappropriate clothing (“Like that’s not a shirt. Put a real fucking shirt on.”) makes little sense when Anna’s top is hidden by a scarf.  
Laura Ramadei, Hiram Delgado. Photo: Hunter Canning.
When the play begins, Charlie has just returned from a mysterious bus trip, his absence having thrown his brother and sister into worried turmoil. We don’t learn where he’s been or what he was doing until the end, which also ties together the nearly half-dozen monologues mentioned above. All coheres to dramatize the play’s central preoccupation, the difficulty of making human connections between one person and another, a concern with which Charlie is obsessed.

McMullen crafts clever colloquial dialogue and repartee, spoken at breakneck speed, often getting the audience (the younger members, at any rate) to laugh. Much of it is reliably vulgar in a world where play after play (like movie after movie) prefers constant iterations of “fuck,” as if “making love” or some other such euphemism is considered okay only if you’re in your dotage.
Mykal Monroe, Julia Ramadei. Photo: Hunter Canning.
Each actor plays with vigor and intelligence, although there's a whole lot of shouting going on. The one mildly questionable performance is Barker’s Charlie, played with great sensitively but in a manner reminiscent of the robotically childlike innocence Dustin Hoffman brought to Raymond in Rain Man. Obviously, people on the spectrum speak and behave in a wide variety of ways; that’s why they call it a spectrum.
Claire Siebers, John Edgar Barker. Photo: Hunter Canning.
Given Barker’s handsomeness, buffness, perfectly trimmed beard, and tattoos, however, U wonder if the role might not be more effective if spoken not like a stereotype but like the neurotypical person he seems, at least externally, to be. Of course, this is open for discussion, and I'm probably way off base, but it’s certainly possible that the contrast between Charlie’s naiveté and knowledge, at least as written, would work better if his conventionality, not his departure from the norm, was emphasized. Nonetheless, Barker makes an impressive Off-Broadway debut.

As for Agnes, she blows her winds, cracks her cheeks, and rumbles her bellyful but neither casts oak-cleaving thunderbolts nor spouts hurricanoes. 


59E59 Theaters/Theater C
59 E. 59th St., NYC
Through September 29

75 (2018-2019): Review: TEVYE SERVED RAW: GARNISHED WITH JEWS (seen September 12, 2018)

"The Milkman's on His Way"

There are few New York actors more capable of bringing true Yiddishkeit to the performance of Yiddish theatre than Allen Lewis Rickman. (Full disclosure: he was a student of mine at Brooklyn College in the late 1980s.)

Yelena Shmulenson, Allen Lewis Rickman, Shane Baker.
While specializing in Yiddish characters—he and his wife, Yelena Shmulenson, played the Yiddish-language prologue to the Coen brothers’ movie A Serious Man—he also excels in English-language roles. In fact, he was the funniest thing in Relatively Speaking, the bill of three one-acts by Ethan Coen, Woody Allen, and Elaine May, on Broadway in 2011. If he’d been in all three plays rather than one the show might have lasted longer than it did.

Now, joined by the excellent Shmulenson and the delightful Shane Baker, “the best-loved Episcopalian on the Yiddish stage today,” Rickman’s at the heart of a low-budget program, which he and Baker adapted, and Rickman directed, that introduces the life and work of the great, highly prolific Yiddish writer, Sholem Aleichem (1859-1916). (A rather fuller theatrical exploration of his writing was represented Off Broadway by Arnold Perl’s The World of Sholem Aleichem (1953), revived on Broadway with Jack Gilford in 1982.) 
Shane Baker, Yelena Shmulenson.
Aleichem (pen name of Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich), of course, wrote the stories about Tevye, the milkman, that inspired Fiddler on the Roof, now being given an excellent production—its first American one in Yiddish—at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Indeed, as its title discloses, Tevye is at the heart of Tevye Served Raw. And Rickman, as the evening’s Tevye, is a perfect fit for the bearded, Torah-spouting patriarch. 

This isn’t Fiddler, of course, so Tevye doesn’t sing, but the role’s dramatic power comes across in the three sad and funny selections borrowed from Fiddler’s source material. The other selections, “What, Me Worthy?” “The Yiddish Sisyphus” “Strange Jews on a Train,” and “A Stepmother’s Trash Talk” (along with a lullaby, “Shlof, Mayn Kind,” sung by Shmulenson), provide insightful satirical sketches depicting late 19th-century Russian Jews. In the interstices, biographical details about the author are provided. Baker and Rickman’s translations are ripe and colloquial, sounding almost as natural as Aleichem’s Yiddish. 
Shane Baker, Allen Lewis Rickman, Yelena Shmulenson.

Some selections are entirely in Yiddish, with English titles projected on an upstage screen (where period photos are also shown), and some include simultaneous translation. In “Strange Jews on a Train,” for example, a female passenger pesters the man next to her for gossip about a wealthy citizen in his home town. Rickman stands between them and, shifting positions, rapidly translates each’s words and gestures for our benefit. It’s a masterful display of timing and expressiveness.

Produced in minimalist fashion with no set to speak of, with fundamental lighting by Joan Racho-Jansen and a few costume basics by George Spelvin (wink, wink), the show is the type that can travel anywhere without a fuss. Its principal drawback is that several selections tend to go on too long, like shaggy dog stories, but fizzle for lack of sufficiently strong payoffs.
Yelena Shmulenson.
One such example is “A Stepmother’s Trash Talk,” in which Shmulenson and Baker read off the extensive litany of Yiddish insults (like schlemiel) that Aleichem’s stepmother allegedly said and that he secretly transcribed in alphabetical order. As Rickman instantly translates, they go through the entire glossary. A tour de force, perhaps, but decidedly anticlimactic.
Allen Lewis Rickman, Yelena Shmulenson, Shane Baker. 
Of enormous help is the cast’s sheer delight in speaking Yiddish. You can just feel the pleasure they take in biting into the words and chewing all of Sholem Aleichem’s language for every flavor it contains. It’s almost as if bagels, lox, kugel, brisket, matzoh ball soup, challah, and latkes had been turned into language. Even with its title, Tevye Served Raw offers a hearty Jewish meal.


Playhouse Theater
151 W. 46th St., NYC
Through October 3 (weekly performances are very limited so check the schedule beforehand)