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).

Barrack Students Win Theatre Honors at 2013 Cappie Awards


Left to right: Leksey Maltzman, Lev Ziskind, Leah Schatz, David Feinberg, Jesse Bernstein, Maya Kassutto, Anna Lieberman, Ilana Goldstein, and Josh Horowitz

— by Beverly C. Rosen

David Feinberg, a Barrack Hebrew Academy junior, won a Cappie award at the Philadelphia Cappie Award Ceremonies held last Sunday for the best performance by a comic actor in a play, for his performance in the Barrack student production of “Brighton Beach Memoirs.” Fellow classmate Maya Kassutto won the Spirit Award.

Cappies, the Critics and Awards Program for high school theatre and journalism students, awarded each year, honor student directors, actors, technicians, musicians, and theater critics in the greater Philadelphia region. Thirty-seven public and private schools in the city and surrounding suburbs participated in this year’s program and received nominations and awards from student critics. The critics, themselves, are also nominated for awards.

More after the jump.
Barrack Hebrew Academy’s student production of Neil Simon’s classic play, directed by Barrack senior Joshua Horowitz, received a total of eight Cappie nominations, including: Best Play, Best Direction, Featured Actor in a Play, Comic Actor in a Play, Comic Actress in a Play, Supporting Actress in a Play, Supporting Actor in a Play, and Lead Actress in a Play.

Prior to the awards ceremonies, held at the Upper Darby Performing Arts Center at Upper Darby High School, the nominees walked the red carpet in formal wear. “We are very proud of all our Cappie nominees and nominations,” shares Dewey Oriente, Barrack’s Drama Director, “and, given the size of our school, that our plays, directors, actors and everyone involved in our student productions receive Cappie nominations each year.”

Old Jews Telling Jokes at the Westside Theatre in NYC

Who knows an old Jew who tells jokes? If you have missed out on your share of such jokes and need ninety minutes of engaging, earthy jokes then head to the Westside Theatre in New York City to see the Off-Broadway show, Old Jews Telling Jokes. The show began as a very popular web site where — you guessed it — old Jews tell jokes.  

More after the jump.
As you wait for the production to begin you will be entertained by music — some Yiddish, some in English.  The Yiddish rendition of Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head was a delightful prelude to the show as was a country rendition of Dreydl, Dreydl, Dreydl I Made You Out of Clay.  

Created by Peter Gethers and Daniel Okrent, Old Jews Telling Jokes showcases five actors in a revue that pays tribute to and reinvents classic jokes.  New songs composed by Adam Gwon add to the show’s fun, upbeat air.  You will hear jokes about religion, assimilation, sex before marriage, after marriage (“you should live so long”)  and during marriage.  Most of these jokes are in the form of long involved stories, which are marvelously engaging.  The actors (Bill Army, Marilyn Sokol, Todd Susman, Lenny Wolpe and Audrey Lynn Weston) sing and they will ask you to sing along as well. They deliver the material with a grace and ease that is a delight to behold.  

The intimate Westside Theatre was filled with Jews, more old than young, some accompanied by grandkids. The comments from the audience members were often as funny as the jokes up on the stage.  An older woman with a heavy Yiddish accent sitting behind me comments to a joke about a man who goes every day for forty years to the Wailing Wall to pray.And how do you feel about this, a local journalist asks him?  “Like I’m talking to a [expletive] wall.” “Det vas good” the woman sitting behind me says to her husband, to whom she had to repeat the jokes, because he was hard of hearing.  

One of the players says: there is no inappropriate moment for humor. The 90 minute show, accompanied by live piano (Donald Corren), is time well spent listening, kvelling, laughing to the often bawdy, sexy, irreverent Jewish humor that has come to be a distinctly American form of humor. From Mel Brooks to Woody Allen, from Larry David to Sarah Silverman Jews have been telling jokes about their status, their sex, and all the intimate details that make up life. “I love it, I love it.  Ach — this I really love!” kvells the Yiddish accented bubby sitting behind me. And so will you.  

  • Westside Theatre (downstairs)  407 West 43rd Street (between 9th and 10th street)
  • Telecharge.com  (212) 239 – 6200

Standing Ovation for World Premiere of Slaying The Dragon

The audience roared to its feet at the conclusion of the premiere of the new opera, Slaying the Dragon on Thursday night, with music by Michael Ching and an original libretto by Ellen Frankel. Perhaps you know the name, Ellen Frankel? Former long-time CEO of Jewish Publication Society and author of numerous books, a life-time goal, to create opera was satisfied in this powerful event at the Prince Music Theater in downtown Philadelphia. A renaissance woman among us and there’s another week of performances ahead!
Inspired by the true story about a Grand Dragon of the Klu Klux Klan and a transformative series of experiences with a rabbinic couple that was chronicled in the book Not the Sword by Kathryn Watterson, Slaying the Dragon stimulated voluminous lobby discussion of the challenging events portrayed which challenge each of us to find our own courageous voice in a world increasingly rife with racism, hatred and intolerance.

How was it for Ellen? In her own words:

After working on the opera, “Slaying the Dragon” for two years, through nine revisions of the libretto, seven workshops, and hours of collaboration with a team of talented artists, it’s hard to believe that the opera has finally taken its bow on the stage before live audiences — and to enthusiastic applause.There’s no feeling like it in the world!

Slaying the Dragon continues at the Helen Corning Warden Theater June 14 & 16 at 8:00 pm and June 17 at 2 pm. It is appropriate for a wide age range and those from all backgrounds. As Ellen added: “I’ve been incredibly gratified by the audience’s positive reaction, especially from a group of African-American high school students, who told me how meaningful and real it was to them. ‘It was so real, so emotional,’ one said.”

Tickets: www.OperaTheater.org

 

The Soap Myth Off Broadway: “Unreliable Memories” & the Holocaust

— by Lisa Grunberger

Although I saw it over 48 hours ago, The Soap Myth,  playing in New York City at the Black Box Theatre, through April 22, continues to haunt me. This is the theatre of witness at its best – provocative and  morally ambiguous that raises more questions than it answers.  Playwright Jeff Cohen and director of the National Jewish Theatre, Arnold Mittelman’s The Soap Myth explores the claim that the Nazis made soap out of Jewish bodies.  

More after the jump.
Greg Mullavey is brilliant in the role of Milton Saltzman, a Holocaust survivor who bears personal witness to the production of the alleged soap.    The play explores the “inherent conflict between the eyewitness survivor memories and the evidentiary standards demanded by scholars.”  It explores too what role, if any, Holocaust deniers play in this issue.   To what extent ought the Holocaust deniers, who figure prominently in the play, affect Jewish museum exhibits?  More than you would like to think.

“All history is speculative” says Annie Blumberg, the young journalist (played admirably by Andi Potamkin) reporting on the soap myth for a magazine.   The denier, played brilliantly by Dee Pelletier (who also plays the museum director) gives a disturbing lecture, based on actual facts, delivered to a university audience, where she casts doubt on the number of victims who perished during the Shoah. “Must the Jews be greedy even in this” — referring to her claim that Jews have egregiously exaggerated the number of victims who died.    

In exploring the politics of memory, The Soap Myth asks uncomfortable questions about what constitutes enough evidence to make it into a museum exhibit. When the museum gatekeepers reject Milton’s repeated requests to include the soap in their exhibit, they are effectively denying this survivor’s testimony as purely anecdotal. The dramatic struggle of The Soap Myth is Milton’s attempt to get somebody to listen to his painful story.  

The Soap Myth is presented as part of the National Jewish Theatre Foundation and Holocaust Archive initiative, directed by Arnold Mittelman.  Mittelman is the Former Producing Artistic Director for over two decades of the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Florida.  Mittelman founded the National Jewish Theatre in 2007.   Its mission is to celebrate the “genius, creativity and history of the Jewish people.”   NJT produced the Soul of Gershwin, the Musical Journey of an American Calmer, Sholom Alechem: Laughter Through Tears with Theodore Bikel as author and actor.  Future plans of the NJT include plays and musicals such as: The Rothschilds, Joseph Vass’ Words By, Mark Saltzman’s Rocket City Alabam and Hannah by John Wooten.  

NJT’s latest initiative is to create the first comprehensive research and production oriented around the Holocaust Theatre Archive. According to Mittelman, the NJT is filling an unfortunate void that has occurred by the loss of many professional resident English-speaking Jewish theatres, in major cities, including New York.  

It is worth a ride to NYC to see this provocative, haunting play which will have you thinking about the nature of memory and how a survivor survives these memories for a long time.   The Soap Myth is not to be missed.  

The Soap Myth: Black Box Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre in NYC. Click here for tickets.

Remaining Showtimes

  • Special Holocaust Remembrance Day performances, Today, Thursday, April 19, 2012 3:00 PM and 7:00 PM
  • Friday, April 20, 2012, 8:00 PM
  • Saturday, April 21, 2012, 3:00 PM
  • Final performance, Sunday, April 22, 2012, 3:00 PM

Black Box Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre, 111 W. 46th Street, New York, NY 10036
Ticket Price: $50-$60; $20 student rush
Ticket Information: 212-352-3101

EgoPo’s Classic Theatre: The Golem at The Prince Theatre

EgoPo Classic Theatre‘s world premier of The Golem, playing at the Prince Theatre through April 15 is part of its 2011-12 season, a Festival of Jewish Theatre.  “The Festival brings the pinnacle stories of the Jewish faith and history to life.”  The seasoned opened with The Diary of Anne Frank and will produce A Dybbuk, adapted by Tony Kushner May 30-June 17.

The play, directed by EgoPo’s literary director, Brenna Geffers, and created by the talented ensemble of artists involved with the piece, retells the ancient myth of the golem for a modern audience.  From its first mention in the Sanhedrin, a 2nd century companion piece to the Torah, to modern references in contemporary literature, like Cavalier and Clay, the golem story has been re-told and re-imagined in many mediums.   EgoPo wanted to perform “a piece exploring the Golem” which is all about needing a protector in a dangerous world.

More after the jump.
In their modern re-casting of the traditional Golem stories, we are in 1940, where a small group of Jews from Prague, wearing yellow Jewish stars are on a train whose destination is unknown.   The first story is told using Czech-style marionettes, bringing the violence of the blood libel to life.  The golem tried to protect the Jews from the blood libel, a violence-provoking rumor that the blood of Christian children was needed for the Passover matzo.

EgoPo (whose name is derived from the French concept “The Physical Self”) is theatre at its best, using puppets (created by Martina Plag)  live music,(composed by Andrew Nelson)  dance, song, lighting and projections to establish mood and create a transformative space.  The sparse set is highly effective (Matthew Miller) as is the second floor space at the Prince Theatre.  

“All a story needs is one listener to keep it” one character remarks early in this captivating production.  The golem, or mudboy, as the wife (played beautifully by Genevieve Perrier) calls him, cannot speak – he is mute.  The golem stories are not simply about the desire for protection during times of danger and persecution, but about language and meaning as well.   In the second story, which explores how love of learning competes with sensual love, we learn about the golem’s demise.  The final story tells us how the golem was born and how he turns upon his own creator, his own Father.  

EgoPo’s production, which runs 80 minutes without an intermission, is a haunting, entertaining, superbly acted piece of original theatre.  It uses all the elements good theatre has to offer – the human body, voice, music, lights and dance in highly creative re-imaginings of an ancient myth.   As we prepare for our Seders this weekend, this is a timely and relevant play to see.  

The Golem, playing through April 15th at the Prince Music Theatre, 1412 Chestnut Street, 8 p,m. Visit their website or call 800 595 – 4TIX.  

Regional Premiere of Microcrisis at Interact Theatre

Global Financial Crisis

If the bid for the Republican nomination has got you down, if spring time in February makes you wonder about global warming, if robo-calls during dinner time exasperate you, you might want to head to InterAct Theatre’s lively production of Microcrisis, a new satire written by Michael Lew and directed by Seth Rozin.   The play takes you from a Monaco casino to a Washington D.C racquetball court in a fast-paced 80 minute romp that follows characters through a corrupt microcredit investment scheme not unfamiliar to most Americans.    

More after the jump.
Microcrisis imagines a global lending scheme run amok when a hard-partying financial entrepreneur bites off more than he can chew.  Playwright Lew says,

When the financial first hit, I was shocked to see the global economy evaporating, and I wanted to look at the root causes of a quickly-evolving , complex manmade disaster.  While global finance might not seem like rife ground for comedy, the more I researched, the more the bankers’ behavior and government complicity struck me as being absurd.

Rozin’s direction is superb as is the acting and the sets, designed by Caitlin Lainoff. As the corrupt investment banker, Bennett, played by Kevin Bergen, is a character you love to hate.  The actor Frank X plays Acquah, a man in Ghana running a tiny mobile-phone leasing business – as well as Frankfurt, Bennett’s corrupt insider boss, who now has a cushy Washington job.  

Rozin says,

I knew when I first read Microcrisis that I wanted to produce and direct it.  The play was so funny, so smart, so theatrical and so incredibly timely.  We had no idea, however, that several months later the play would be so much timelier in the midst of Occupy Wall Street movement.  Current events have put Microcrisis in a whole new light.

The play premiered in New York City at the Ma-Yi Theater in Fall 2012.  

Following the second and third Tuesday and Wednesday performances of every production, patrons are invited to stay for Coffee Conversations, informal discussion with company artists.  During Microcrisis, Coffee Conversations are scheduled for Tuesday, February 7 and Wednesday, February 8.   A thought provoking play like Microcrisis would seem to welcome a some smart post-performance coffee talk.  

Individual Tickets for Microcrisis are on sale now.  Subscriptions and tickets may be purchased by calling InterAct’s box office at 215-568-8079 or by dropping by the theatre at The Adrienne, 2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia or by visiting InterAct’s website.

What Does Normal Feel Like


Christopher Durang’s Why Torture is Wrong, And The People Who Love Them

New City Stage Company’s 2011-2012 season began on December 10th at the Adrienne Theatre Main Stage with a Philadelphia premiere of Christopher Durang’s satire Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them, directed by Michael K. Brophy.   The play is part of season called The Terror Within, a body of work that considers political and ethical questions posed a decade after 9/11.  What does it mean to live in a world of terrorists?  

More after the jump.

Why Torture is Wrong is a fast-paced comedy/tragedy about America’s ongoing “war on terror.”  A young woman, Felicity (played beautifully by Ginger Dayle, the founder and Producing Artistic Director of New City Stage) wakes up to a strange man, Zamir (perfectly cast Sam Henderson) – to discover that at a drunken evening at Hooters she married this would-be terrorist, or alcoholic or man on parole.  Seeking comfort at her parents New Jersey home, we encounter her crazy mother Luella (played magnificently by Marcia Saunders) and her alleged butterfly raising Republican, Jane Fonda hating Father, Leonard (played by Paul L. Nolan).   Durang doesn’t stop there but pushes us to a dark place where our fears of the sociopath next door make us squirm in our seats.  

The play deftly explores how political issues like terrorism and torture get played out in the private space of home.   At one point, Luella puts down her needlepoint and retreats to the kitchen to make French toast: You can postpone angry exchanges until your stomach is nice and full.   Leonard, who we learn is involved in a Shadow Government plot to overthrow terrorists – wants to rename French toast Freedom Toast.  Head to the Adrienne if only to meet the “porn again” Revered Mike in a superb performance by Russ Widdall and Hidegarde, aka Scooby Doo, played by Sonja Robson, and The Voice, played by Ed Swidey.  The acting and pacing of this production are spot-on.  The sets, designed by S. Corey Palmer also deserve mention, as they are understated and effective.  

Durang, who currently co-chairs with Marsha Norman, the Playwriting Program at the Juillard School, has a large body of work which have received Tony nominations and Obie awards, including A History of the American Film, Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, and Durang/Durang.    

In an otherwise provocative two hours of theatre, the final scene seems to want to end on a lighter, sweeter, more hopeful note than the previous 90 minutes we’ve spent with these zany, lost, disturbed characters who “identify with bullies.”  In the final scene, Felicity returns to the scene of the crime at Hooters, in an effort to reverse time.  This is part of the play’s clever internal commentary about the theatre itself, linear time, and “unspeakable things that happen at night.”    Luella says: “I go to the theatre to learn what normal is.”   Durang’s play asks us to consider what is normal is a post 9/11 world.  

The play runs through January 8th.
Adrienne Theatre Main Stage
2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA