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BWW Reviews: NOT THAT JEWISH Celebrates the Heartfelt Life of Comedienne Monica Piper

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Monica Piper created an Ace Award-winning series, written for a top TV comedy series, and has performed on the most prominent stages in the country. Her new solo show, NOT THAT JEWISH, was commissioned by Jewish Women's Theatre Story Salon but became so popular, it is now running through June 28 having gone through several extensions since last November - and probably more given the overwhelming ticket demand and sold out houses.

NOT THAT JEWISH is a wonderful evening of entertainment and laughs in the Jewish Women's Theatre's new home at The Braid Theater in Santa Monica, an extension of the Bergamot Arts District. Monica Piper shares her autobiographical journey trying to prove just what it takes to be Jewish, especially when you never attend temple. She discovers that ultimately, it comes down to having a Jewish heart, something anyone can have as long as it is filled with compassion, humor, doing good deeds, acceptance of others, and a deep love of family. It is by Yiddish definition what it takes to be a mensch, a real good person.

Monica's journey begins with stories of growing up with a father who worshipped humor and a mother who worshipped her husband. Her father was a travelling entertainer who gave up his career to settle down in the Bronx with his wife to raise their daughter. Heartwarming and extremely funny stories of shows performed with her father in their living room had me remembering when I used to put on shows with my cousins for our parents and how much their applause and support meant to us. The joy of live theater became a way of life for me, just as a life of comedy became Monica's.

And while you don't have to be Jewish is appreciate the humor in the show, it certainly helps to understand Yiddish. But if you don't, I assure you Piper's pantomiming of what she is saying makes every single word totally understandable. There is no mistaking what a shaina punim is when she flashes her smile! But then she offhandedly admits, "Just remember, my Mom told me that real beauty takes lots of time and money." The audience roared with laughter - as they did throughout the show.

And how did she wind up marrying two men so tall, blond, and All-American white Protestant? She blames it on Mickey Mantle, the blond God baseball player for the Yankees who she idolized as a kid. Her later story of meeting Mantle at a restaurant and their brief flirtation has the audience in stitches.

Recruited by Rosanne Barr to write for her multi-award winning show, Monica went on to work on other series like "Mad About You" and "Veronica's Closet" before becoming head writer on the #1 animated series Rugrats, winning an EMMY which she proudly uses as a prop during the show. "I got paid well to think like a 3-year old. How cool was that?" Taking the statuette to her son's Little League game to impress everyone, with it being Los Angeles, one of the kids piped up with "Oh my Dad won an Oscar" thus shutting down her celebration but not her joy of accomplishment.

In this crazy world where only family makes sense, Piper knew she really wanted to be a parent and goes into great detail about her journey to become a single mother after two failed marriages, fertility treatments, then finally arranging an adoption at age 41. Her ability to laugh about her struggles as well as the joys and fears during the entire process were equally sincere and extremely funny. Her impersonation of how her dog felt watching her diaper the baby will ring true for any new Mom trying to adjust to the same situation.

I don't remember any show I have seen with my Mom where we both laughed so much and had such a good time being in an audience. It is certainly understandable why people come back with New Groups of friends to experience the show over and over again. See it for yourself and you will certainly understand why - and what it takes to have a Jewish heart. As her father would say, "Heart? Schmart. Just go laugh at my really funny kid."

NOT THAT JEWISH, written and performed by Monica Piper, directed by Eve Brandstein, Produced by Ronda Spinak and Jewish Women's Theatre, Associate Producers Barbara Koletsky, Susie Yure, and Rose Ziffruns. Runs through June 28 at 8pm on Thursdays and Saturdays, and Sundays at 2pm and 7:30pm (except May 10th) at The Braid - 2912 Colorado Ave. #102, Santa Monica, CA 90402. Tickets are $35. Reservations: (310) 315-1400 or www.jewishwomenstheatre.org.


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