BWW Reviews: The New Jewish Theatre's Hilarious Production of OLD JEWS TELLING JOKES
It's impossible to analyze humor, and even if you try to it just takes all the fun out of it anyway. Some say jokes are mostly "tragedy plus time", and that "laughter is the best medicine". Both are true to a certain extent. So, when it comes to reviewing Old Jews Telling Jokes (created by Peter Gethers and Daniel Okrent), I think any kind of critical analysis would be a boring waste of time. And, in a time when show titles can sometimes be cryptic metaphors, it's nice to see something so simple and direct as one that succinctly and accurately sums up the premise of this show. The current production by The New Jewish Theatre is a well-cast, smartly directed show that delivers hearty laughs from start to finish. Everyone could use a good chuckle now and then, so I strongly suggest you check out this hilarious show!
While there's no plot to speak of, there are biographical bits for each of the characters that are both poignant and humorous. The common thread here is that growing up Jewish means you've probably heard these jokes at one time or another, in one form or another, and there's a pride in carrying on the tradition. So, what makes up the bulk of the show are vignettes that take the audience on a ride through life, starting with birth and childhood and working our way up to adulthood and marriage, while touching on various subject matters like religion and sex.
Dave Cooperstein (Reuben), Johanna Elkana-Hale (Debbi), Bobby Miller (Nathan), Craig Neumann (Morty), and Stellie Siteman (Bunny) take on a variety of roles as they move from setup to setup and punchline to punchline. They're all very talented performers with expert comic timing, and even though some of the jokes are as old as time itself, they manage to breathe fresh life into the material. They're a fine ensemble that makes it all seem effortless.
Edward Coffield's direction works very well, keeping the jokes flying fast and furious so that you hardly have time to digest one before the next is on its way. Peter and Margery Spack do wonderful work with the flashy scenic design and projections, and Nathan Schroeder's lighting is able switch gears quickly. Michele Friedman Siler's costumes nicely delineate each character as well.
If you're looking for a show that will make you laugh then you should definitely check out The New Jewish Theatre's production of Old Jew Telling Jokes, it's a real riot. And, it's playing through June 1, 2014.