As the Matzo Ball Turns ~ The Musical

Heart of a Lion Productions/La Princesa Productions

Fish out of water, Jozef Rothstein, enters the shark infested waters of Tinseltown with the hopes of landing a career on the silver screen. But does this aspiring actor turned waiter have what it takes to rise above the in and out crowd of the deli scene to make his Hollywood dreams come true?

$22 / 170 minutes

As the Matzo Ball Turns ~ The Musical is based on a book by Jozef Rothstein (www.asthematzoballturns.com). The tagline for the book is “An aspiring actors ten year encounter with hit men, celebrities, and old Jewish ladies. Emmy Winner and Former Editor of Rolling Stone Magazine, Robert Wallace, called the book “Day of the Locust with a side order of noodle kugel.” He went on to say, “It is a gonzo ten-year journey–in turns side-splittingly funny and heart wrenchingly sad–into the dark heart of the entertainment and restaurant business, seen through the jaundiced eyes of an aspiring actor turned waiter. This memoir will be chicken soup for the soul for anyone, anywhere, who has ever asked the eternal question, “Lord, how long must I wait?” The live show opened in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania in January 2017 after four years of pre-production and has been a labor of love. The show has moved to three different cities seeking the right talent for this unique and wildly entertaining dramedy. Recently, the Original Cast CD has been released to the public and the production team is aiming for a New York City run after performing in the 2017 Philly Fringe Festival. We hope to see you at the show!!!

Times:

Sept 7 at 7pm

Sept 8 at 1pm

Sept 8 at 7pm

Sept 9 at 1pm

Sept 9 at 7pm

Sept 10 at 1pm

Sept 10 at 7pm

From Barrack to Broadway

David Treatman (left) and Alan Koolik (right), Columbia University students and theater producers in New York City.

David Treatman, a 2016 graduate of the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy,  and and his business partner, Alan Koolik, are two of the youngest producers on the New York theater scene. They are students at Columbia University: Treatman, a sophomore, and Koolik, a junior. [Read more…]

The Roses in June (Closing Performances)

The Roses in June closes its Philadelphia run with two performances today at Plays & Players Theatre in Philadelphia. This new play, written by Timothy M. Kolman, tackles two difficult subjects through the lives of The Rose Family, who fled Nazi Germany during the Holocaust, escaping to what they hoped would be a better life in London. There is the life-long fear associated with being a refugee and the anguish of bullying and anti-Semitism since their son Paul was a victim of this, even after moving to London. With striking resemblance to contemporary times, the play brings the audience face-to-face with the past, but in frightening reality with the present.

There is a matinee today at 2 pm and an evening performance at 7 p.m. Tickets are $47 for orchestra seating and $35 for balcony seating. To purchase tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit www.therosesinjune.com. For groups of 10 or more, call: 267 299 8822. Students and Seniors can purchase tickets at 50% discount at the theatre box office one hour prior to show time. For information, call: 844 – 7ROSE67  (844-776-7367).

The Roses in June (Press Opening)

Tonight is the press opening for The Roses in June, a new play written by Timothy M. Kolman, which will run through July 1, 2017, at Plays & Players Theatre in Philadelphia. The play tackles two difficult subjects through the lives of The Rose Family, who fled Nazi Germany during the Holocaust, escaping to what they hoped would be a better life in London. There is the life-long fear associated with being a refugee and the anguish of bullying and anti-Semitism since their son Paul was a victim of this, even after moving to London. With striking resemblance to contemporary times, the play brings the audience face-to-face with the past, but in frightening reality with the present.

Since tonight is the press opening, the show will begin at 7 p.m. Otherwise, it will run Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 pm and 7 pm. Each performance will be followed by talk-backs featuring the playwright, director and actors.

Tickets are on sale now and are $47 for orchestra seating and $35 for balcony seating. To purchase tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit www.therosesinjune.com. For groups of 10 or more, call: 267 299 8822. Students and Seniors can purchase tickets at 50% discount at the theatre box office one hour prior to show time. For information, call: 844 – 7ROSE67  (844-776-7367).

The Roses in June (Premiere)

The world premiere of The Roses in June, a new play written by Timothy M. Kolman, will make its debut in Philadelphia on June 14, 2017, and run through July 1, 2017, at Plays & Players Theatre in Philadelphia. The play tackles two difficult subjects through the lives of The Rose Family, who fled Nazi Germany during the Holocaust, escaping to what they hoped would be a better life in London. There is the life-long fear associated with being a refugee and the anguish of bullying and anti-Semitism since their son Paul was a victim of this, even after moving to London. With striking resemblance to contemporary times, the play brings the audience face-to-face with the past, but in frightening reality with the present.

The Roses in June will run Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 pm and 7 pm. Each performance will be followed by talk-backs featuring the playwright, director and actors.

Tickets are on sale now and are $47 for orchestra seating and $35 for balcony seating. To purchase tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit www.therosesinjune.com. For groups of 10 or more, call: 267 299 8822. Students and Seniors can purchase tickets at 50% discount at the theatre box office one hour prior to show time. For information, call: 844 – 7ROSE67  (844-776-7367).

Theater Review: ‘The Christians’ Has Little More Than Atmosphere

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Erika LaVonn and Paul Deboy in “The Christians.”

Lucas Hnath’s “The Christians,” directed by Timothy Bond, is a juvenile undramatic portrait of a mega church and its Pastor. Playing at the Wilma Theatre through May 29th, the play tells the story of Pastor Paul, the founder of a successful super church who delivers a sermon (perhaps not incidentally on the day the church, after 10 years, is debt-free) wherein he changes his theological belief on the existence of hell.

After telling a story about a young boy, not a Christian, who heroically saves his own sister by running into a burning building, Pastor Paul concludes from this parable, that this boy will live on in heaven. Hell, Pastor Paul teaches, from the original Greek, is a dumping ground, not an actual place of eternal damnation.

This sermon, delivered by actor Paul Deboy, to his chorus, his congregants (the audience), his wife, (Erika LaVonn) and assistant Pastor Joshua (Delance Minefee), catalyzes his downfall as church membership declines and Pastor Joshua starts his own successful church. The rest of the play vaguely explores this theological controversy in a decidedly dilettantish manner, throwing around biblical verses in a cursory way that does not reflect deeply on the issues Hnath raises.

During the play’s opening sequence, the audience is entertained by a chorus of 19 singers (all local Philadelphians under the direction of Michael Keck) who sing evangelical songs (indeed I saw one audience member sing along clearly comforted by the play so far) with lyrics such as “build your hopes on things eternal/hold his hand, God’s unchanging hand.” The set, artfully designed by Matt Saunders, reproduces the super church environment.

But Hnath’s investigation of the theological concepts of hell, heaven, belief and faith fall short, lacking much substance. There is little, if any genuine drama in the play – Pastor Paul knows exactly what he wants and seems fearless and even arrogant in his manner. His tone and voice are reminiscent of Garrison Keillor from the Lake Wobegon live radio show – a preternaturally calm tone with a sing-songy cadence that does not suggest any struggle with his new belief on sin and the after-life. Pastor Paul seems almost too sure of his theological beliefs and feels talk-show-hosty and condescending to his parishioners.

Hnath too easily settles for a high concept to the detriment of much substance in this undramatic portrayal of a minister and his church. When his wife leaves him at the end of the play, because she does indeed believe in hell and finds his beliefs anathema, there is no pathos, the characters remain hollow, not even rising to the level of ideological talking heads.

The play is more often than not manipulative in its use of music and religion and relies too heavily on them to achieve some higher emotional effect. Nothing seems to be at stake for Pastor Paul who seems at peace in his newfound theological convictions, willing to pay the price (his church, his family) for his beliefs. When he repeats the line “I have a powerful urge to communicate with you, but I find the distance between us insurmountable,” it sounds more like an advertising slogan or something easily blurbed by a reviewer than a deeply felt piece of writing.

“The Christians” is playing now through May 29 at the Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad Street. Tickets are between $10 and $25. Information: 215-546-7824.

Shabbat and a Show

Congregation Hesed Shel Emet presents “Shabbat and a Show” on Friday, May 13, 2016 for opening night of “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Please join us at Steel River Playhouse for Shabbat Service, followed by the show, and a private Oneg during Intermission.  Steel River Playhouse is located at 245 E. High Street, Pottstown, PA  19464.  The playhouse is fully handicapped accessible.

After the show, there will be a discussion during which director Michael Licata, Rabbi Flax and the cast will answer questions.

Funds raised support Congregation Hesed Shel Emet in Pottstown, PA.

 

Lantern Theater’s ‘Photograph 51’ Review: Jew, Scientist, Woman

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“Photograph 51” is playing at St. Stephen’s Theater at 10th & Ludlow Streets until Oct.11. Tickets $34-$39. 215-829-0395. Photo by Mark Garvin.

The Lantern Theater is opening its fall season with a revelatory production of Anna Ziegler’s “Photograph 51,” a play about Rosalind Franklin, whose X-ray image became the key factor in the discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA.

Eros and logos, desire and reason, love and science, are in opposition and tandem — like the two strands of a double helix — throughout this captivating story of Franklin’s fraught life.

Franklin (played beautifully by Philadelphia actress, Genevieve Perrier) works in isolation at King’s College in London in the 1950s, where she is a triple threat to her male scientist-colleagues, James Watson and Francis Crick: Jewish, brilliant, and beautiful. “She’s not fat,” Watson laments when he meets her.

The audience witnesses the driven and prickly Franklin, subjected to both sexism and anti-Semitism as the men around her race to unlock the structure of DNA. It is witnessed too how the mundane, quotidian co-exists with heights of grandeur as Watson can wax poetic about unlocking the secrets of the universe and complains that his teeth hurt.

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Trevor William Fayle as James Watson (left) and Harry Smith as Francis Crick. Photo by Mark Garvin.

Franklin refuses to become embroiled in the petty scientific rat race that Watson and Crick play. “She’s a cipher where a woman should be,” the sexist anti-Semite Watson comments.

While the most obvious story playwright Ziegler tells is the story about Franklin’s life, her evocative writing suggests more than meets the eye. “We made the invisible visible,” Franklin’s partner, Maurice Wilkins (the excellent Joseph McGranaghan), says. And Ziegler too has made something about scientific pursuit more palpable in her own dramatic creation. With this play, she has given us a glimpse into the mysterious, zigzag work of science with its petty jealousies, power plays, false turns, mistakes and sexual gossip.

It is a play of ideas, which illuminates the poetry and philosophy behind scientific investigation. The playwright grounds her own investigation into the nature of creation, God, memory and faith through a story about a mysterious woman who did her work quietly and methodically, and in doing so discovered one of the keys to human life.

Spoiler alert: “I do love the shape of things even before they mean something,” Franklin muses at the end of the play, when she knows she is dying of ovarian cancer.

Franklin is only 37 years old and Watson and Crick’s model of the double helix had been made public. They will be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1962. When Wilkins despairs “we lost,” Franklin adds, “No, the world won.” It is a stunning moment of theater.

A love story is here too, in this elegantly structured drama, with its minimal stage set by Meghan Jones, and its precise direction by Kathryn MacMillan.

Ziegler imagines Franklin attending a performance of Shakespeare’s “Winter’s Tale,” where Antigonus says “the spirits of the dead may walk again.” In “Photograph 51,” through Ziegler’s imaginative act of remembering the life of Franklin, who had been relegated to a scientific footnote, we see that the spirit of the dead does indeed walk again.

Lantern Theatre’s ‘QED’ Not as Special as Its Subject

In the Lantern Theatre’s production of “QED,” the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman is preparing a lecture entitled “What We Know.”

What we, the audience, know is that a two-hour monologue about a famous person needs to have more dramatic tension, more imagination, more daring, and less by-the-book, “official” structure than in Peter Purnell play, directed by M. Craig Getting.

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Peter DeLaurier is a fine actor, tall and lanky as Feynman was, and energetically inhabits the role of the cool but quirky, absent-minded, tender-hearted but tough-minded physics professor.

The play’s title refers to Feynman’s work on quantum electrodynamics, for which he won the Nobel Prize. The play is inspired by the writings of Feynman, and Ralph Leighton’s book, Tuva or Bust!

The play shows that the iconoclastic Feynman did not like “the official way of doing anything.” Unlike Feynman, who won the Nobel Prize by thinking outside of the box, the play works safely within the standard biographical play formula, as Ben Brantley wrote of the original production starring Alan Alda in 2001:

Careful dropping of names and/or awards to establish subject as person of consequence? Check. Scenes in which subject sinks into self-doubts followed by scenes that affirm joy of living? Check, check, check.

[Read more…]

Theater Review: “Bad Jews”? Bad Play!

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Although Sofie Yavorsky gives an energetic performance as Daphna Feygenbaum, a Vassar student who is grieving the loss of her grandfather, the play relies on caricatures, not characters.

The overbearing, dominant, kvetchy Jewish woman is alive and well in Joshua Harmon’s comedy, Bad Jews, playing at the Walnut Street Theatre’s Independence Studio until November 30.

Directed by David Stradley, the play is set in a studio apartment on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, immediately following the funeral of the characters’ poppy. We meet Jonah and Liam Haber, their cousin Daphna, and Liam’s stereotypically-blonde girlfriend Melody as they engage in a family squabble about who is to inherit their grandfather’s necklace.

Although Sofie Yavorsky gives an energetic performance as Daphna Feygenbaum, a Vassar student who is grieving the loss of her grandfather, the play relies on caricatures, not characters. Listening to Daphna yell at her cousin Liam, who brings home his shiksa girlfriend Melody, that he is not a real Jew and that he can go ahead and “f*** an ethnic free bush,” did not pack the punch that was presumably intended in this kind of dialogue.

Listening to Liam accuse Daphna of being a purist, even a “Nazi,” who is interested in preserving the integrity of Jewish blood line, when she argues he should not marry a shiksa, sounded like a familiar, schematic and wooden rendition of the old particular-universalist, ethnic-assimilationist debate. We have heard these debates before, and this particular tale of family inheritance, grief and familiar strife adds nothing new to the story in its language.

What does it mean to be a Jew is a perennial question that “Bad Jews” attempts to answer, but is far too in enamored by its easy “shocking” repartee to even being to engage this question in a complex, serious way. A particularly low point is when Melody, an opera major in college, sings an embarrassing version of “Summertime” for Daphna, to cheer her up. It is a cheap moment that goes for an easy laugh that feels out of place in the play.

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If such misogynistic stereotypes of women pass as “brave comedy with tragically high stakes” (The Financial Times), then something is seriously wrong with theater reviewers.

 

Harmon’s writing has neither the comic timing and wit of Neil Simon, nor the intellectual weight of Tom Stoppard. The highlight of the show is perhaps Liam’s use of “Holocaust” as a verb: “Don’t Holocaust me” he warns Daphna.

Other than that, the play has little original writing, little story, and a lot of yelling by a clearly hysterical Jewish woman who is mean, vindictive, and self-righteous. If such misogynistic stereotypes of women pass as “brave comedy with tragically high stakes” (The Financial Times), then something is seriously wrong with theater reviewers.

Bad Jews had its world premiere at Roundabout Theatre Company’s Roundabout Underground in the fall of 2012 and was nominated for three Outer Circle Awards. Sitting through the 90 minute (no intermission) family brawl among young cousins made me long for a good 25-minute episode of Larry David’s creative, quirky, whimsical sitcom, “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”