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.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

FRIGID:The Black Jew Dialogues

Reviewed by Cindy Pierre

So a black man and a Jewish man walk into a cheap hotel room together, and after three days come out with The Black Jew Dialogues, a compare-and-contrast comedy that tries to figure out why black people and Jewish people have so much conflict. Written and performed by Ron Jones and Larry Jay Tish, this variety show uses video, interviews, puppetry, fat suits and characters to go through shared histories, customs and food, but there's little substance apart from the laughs.

This is partially due to the fact that the dialogue plays out more like an improvised conversation (both Jones and Tish have an improv background) than a structured script. The theme is simply too heavy to leave it up to chance. And the show itself, rife with stereotypes and popular history, sometimes talks at the audience rather than engage it even though there are some interactive segments. The laughs may be frequent, but they're bought with off-color jokes. For instance, in one interview, a white teenager jokes about kissing and humping a black girl, and then addresses his mom in a showy, rebellious act.

There are some good bits: one is a fun interaction between Jones and God (also played by Jones), in which they harmonize a progressive spiritual that includes lyrics like “bash the white man in the head.” Another is ONE (One N****r Everywhere), in which the government implants a black man in the unlikeliest of places, with President Obama as ONE's most crowning achievement.

It's not just silliness: there's a poignant statement about how Jewish people and black people have earned the right to laugh. It's even qualified by a series of gruesome stills and videos of oppression, but this context, which should frame the whole show, is just an ending. And that's too little, too late.

FRIGID: The Black Jew Dialogues (60 minutes, no intermission)
Kraine Theater (85 E. 4th St. btwn 2nd and Bowery) ($16)
Through March 7th.

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