fauxklore (fauxklore) wrote,

Sholom Aleichem: Laughter Through Tears

I went to see Theodore Bikel's one man show about Sholom Aleichem at Theatre J (in the DC Jewish Community Center) this afternoon. There are really 3 characters - Theo himself, Sholom Aleichem, and Tevye, with just a few transitions between them. In short, there are several amusing anecdotes, but the show could have used a stronger narrative structure. It worked fine as shtick, but was only partly satisfying as storytelling. One of the funnier parts had to do with a comparison of classes of funerals in America. Apparently, if you pay more, you also get better weather. The biggest laugh was probably from a line about how if you study world music, only a Jewish song would mention hemmorhoids.

The transformation into Tevye was remarkably successful. He may be 85 years old or so, but Bikel still has it.

Of course, there was music. The theme was really set by the plaintive "Ver Vet Blaybn (Who WIll Remain?)" which was returned to as something of a frame. There might be an advantage to knowing less Yiddish than I do, because the "translated" English lyrics (which were written by Bikel) took a lot of liberties in the interest of rhyme. The most successful songs were the ones where he limited the translation to a few spoken words, e.g. "Di Mezinke" (a dance for the marriage of a youngest child, though I don't think he ever actually specified "youngest.")

By the way, this came up in an article about the play, not in the play itself but I either did not know or had completely forgotten that Bel Kaufman, who wrote Up the Down Staircase, is Sholom Aleichem's granddaughter. She is still alive and well into her 90's.

I will refrain from whining about the hordes of tourists on the metro on the way home.
Tags: judaism, musicals, theatre

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