According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Don't Worry, Be Jewish

A pair of youngsters struggle with their Jewish identity, hindered and helped by the Devil and King Solomon as they journey on. Although there are some talented singers in the cast, their performances are not enough to save this talky, slow-paced and misguided musical.

Nathan Kay and Kailand Novak

Photo credit: Kampfire Films PR

Review by Cindy Pierre

What do you do when you're not happy with the religion, culture, race, or heritage that you were born into? Do you sit and pout, try to slide by under an assumed identity, or force yourself to accept it? If you're Chaim (Nathan Kay) and Sherianna (Alexa Rose Burger) in Don't Worry, Be Jewish, you sing your way through the issue until you come to a place of acceptance. But choosing the right path won't be easy, especially with the Devil (Kailand Novak) and King Solomon (Michell Sapoff) sitting on their shoulders.

Mark Kleyner's Don't Worry, Be Jewish opens with the actors spread out across a photography studio, primping and posing for wedding photos. However, the mini-microphones not only make them look like they're on a set for a music video or concert, they make them unable to control the volume levels (that are sometimes thundering) during dialogue. As Chaim, Kay establishes himself early as the star of the show, with his slightly hammy personality and good singing voice. He fancies Sherianna, who is about to become a member of the family, a cute strawberry blonde uncomfortable with her own Jewishness.

It's not self-hatred that drives Sherianna's rejection of her roots. Instead, it's her pollyanna- type ideals about living a stress- and heartache-free life by renouncing her heritage. Weighing in is the Devil (a ghastly portrayal that can be attributed more to the directing than Novak), clad in a bright red jacket and over the top cackle, and King Solomon, looking as earnest and as humble as he possibly can in white. Between the predominantly dialogue-driven show (not good for a production calling itself a musical), there are few musical numbers that are memorable, but "What Would Life Be Without The Magic?" stands out as a good one. In addition to the leads, Elina Rakhlin sets herself apart with a hearty, full voice that is mature for her young age.

Sadly, some of the production elements weaken the show greatly. Choreography, light and sound effects are off for most of the performance, and the set is uninspired. About an hour into the show, the plot devolves from trying to entertain to an anti-antisemitism sermon delivered by the Devil, no less. This argument may be germane to the plot, but it seems to be thrown in as a last ditch effort to make the show substantial. It doesn't work.

Don't Worry, Be Jewish may be an ode to Jewish pride, but it's done in a lackluster, ill-executed manner. Kleyner may be celebrating the culture, customs, and music, but the audience needs a heckuva lot more to come to the party.

Through June 4th. Tickets: $25-$75. The Promise Theater, 316 East 91st Street, New York, NY


Elegance said...

I liked this show very much. All of the songs were well thought out.

While they were all pretty good.
I'd single out Elina Rakhlin as a stand out and predict a brilliant future for this powerful caged voice amongst others in the cast. She simply took it easy on the others and was limited to a whisper versus their screams..(metaphor).


Anonymous said...

I can't agree, I thought that she definitely did not have the talent of some other performers, although she has an even voice, its missing individuality

els.phantom said...

Sour Grapes when the truth ripples..