Richard Topol & More to Star in KING OF THE JEWS Off-Broadway Premiere

The production begins October 24, opens October 28, and runs through November 19 at HERE Arts Center.

By: Sep. 28, 2023
Richard Topol & More to Star in KING OF THE JEWS Off-Broadway Premiere

Based on his controversial but acclaimed 1979 novel, Leslie Epstein’s King of the Jews will get its Off Broadway debut this fall, beginning October 24, opening October 28, and running through November 19 at HERE Arts Center (145 6th Ave, New York, NY 10013). This production is being presented by Parkman Productions.  

One night after curfew in the Astoria Café, a group of waiters and cooks and entertainers, along with a spare rabbi or two, are forced by the German occupiers to form a Judenrat, a group of self-governing Jews who will thenceforth govern the lives—and determine the deaths—of their co-religionists in the ghetto that surrounds them. In that first act, they are forced, at a terrible cost, to choose their Elder,  who is based on the true-life character Chaim Rumkowski, leader of the Lodz Ghetto in Poland. In the second act, eighteen months later, we see the Judenrat and its leader confronted with the terrible moral dilemma of having to decide: Who among their fellow Jews is to live and who is to die? It is not a choice that any human being in a world that has not become morally unhinged and absurd can make. And yet they must. In the madness and double-dealing and even humor that ensues, we join these ordinary mortals as they plumb the depths of the unimaginable that history has thrust upon them.

Cast includes Richard Topol (Broadway: Indecent) is joined by Rachel Botchan (Regional:  Indecent), David Deblinger (TV: “Tulsa King”) John Little (Broadway: Cabaret), Daniel Oreskes (Broadway:  West Side Story), Allen Lewis Rickman (Broadway: Relatively Speaking), JP Sarro (Netflix “ Orange is the New Black”), Dave Shalansky (TV: “Gillmore Girls”), Jonathan Spivey (The Front Page), Erica Spyres (Broadway: Paradise Square), Wesley Tiso (TV: “Chicago P.D”),  and Robert Zukerman (Film: In Bed With Ulysses).

The creative team includes  Lauren Helpern (set design), Zach Blane (light design), Jane Shaw (sound design), Oana Botez (costume design), Sarah Pencheff-Martion (props designer), Jamibeth Margolis (Casting) and Emily Paige Ballou (production stage manager), Michal lV. Mendelson (assistant stage manager), Lauren Parish (Production Manager), (casting). This show is produced by John Breen for Parkman Productions.

“When I  adapted my novel ‘King of the Jews’ for the stage, I aimed to capture the essence of humanity’s most challenging moments. This small café becomes a  microcosm of the larger world and its most profound moral dilemmas. The struggle of the Judenrat echoes in stark form many of the choices, including that between good and evil, democratic instincts, and the ruthlessness of fascism, that stands before us now. We, too, must discover what these ordinary men and women do on their stage: cowardice, of course, and foolish pride and egoism, but also resilience, the ability to laugh, the strength to resist, and in the end, a degree of hidden wisdom that cries out to those with power over others: there are moral limits beyond which no human beings can be asked to go. Their past is very much with us in our own present.” Playwright and novelist Leslie Epstein

Epstein’s novel was called “Mature, brilliantly sustained, thoroughly engrossing.”-Newsweek; “The best book yet to be written on the Holocaust. A superb novel.”-San Francisco Chronicle; “Remarkable. A lesson in what artistic restraint can do to help us imagine the dark places in our history.”-The New York Times Book Review; “Epstein has done the impossible. He has shown what the power of art--of his art—can reveal of the depths of the unspeakable.”-The Philadelphia Inquirer. 

The stage adaptation, which premiered in Boston in 2007, was called “Simple, dark and brilliant, The brave and humane piece of theatre by Leslie Epstein. He gives us wonderfully complex and contradictory characters. What is most unusual and most memorable is how deeply funny it is. King of the Jews would not be what it is without the laughs.” Boston Globe; “Luminous and wrenching.” Boston Phoenix; “’ King of the Jews’ is indeed a painful story, but it is told with great reverence.” Boston Metro; “A brilliant adaptation of his 1979 Holocaust novel.” Theater Mirror. 

King of the Jews will perform  Tuesday -Saturday at 7 p.m. Matinees on Wednesday and Sunday at 2PM. Tickets are $35- $99. Tickets & Information: visit HERE is located at 145 6th Ave (Enter on Dominick, 1 block south of Spring). 

This production is a part of SubletSeries@HERE, a curated rental program that provides artists with subsidized space and equipment, as well as a technical liaison.



(Writer) was born in Los Angeles in 1938 to a family of screenwriters (his father, Philip, and Uncle, Julius, wrote Casablanca, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Arsenic and Old Lace, The Man Who Came to Dinner, among dozens of other witty and distinguished screenplays). He attended Yale, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude, and Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship. He holds a graduate degree from UCLA and a doctorate from Yale Drama School (both in playwriting). He has published eleven books of fiction, including King of the Jews and an autobiographical novel, San Remo Drive. His articles and stories have appeared in such places as Esquire, the Atlantic Monthly, Playboy, Harpers, the Yale Review, Triquarterly, Georgia Review, Tikkun, Partisan Review, the Nation, and the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post and the Boston Globe. In addition to the Rhodes Scholarship, he has received many fellowships and awards, including a Fulbright and Guggenheim Fellowship, an award for Distinction in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, a residency at the Rockefeller Institute at Bellagio, the Samuel Goldwyn Award for Playwriting, and various grants from the NEA. He directed the Creative Writing Program at Boston University. He lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, with his wife, Ilene. His three grown children are Anya, a television writer and producer (“Homicide: Life on the Streets,” “Tell Me You Love Me,” “In Treatment, The AffairP aul, a social worker who has saved countless lives, and Theo, who as General Manager of the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, had entertained and thrilled thousands of others. 

Alexandra Aron

(Director) is the Founder and Producing Director of the Remote Theater Project (RTP), which produces work by International Artists whose voices are not frequently heard on US stages. Alex has directed world premiere productions in New York City, at major regional theaters, and internationally. Highlights include A Night in the Old Marketplace, music by Frank London, and lyrics by Glen Berger, which has been seen in São Paulo, Copenhagen, Warsaw, Toronto, Milan, New York City, MASS MoCA, and Bard Summerscape;  Naked Old Man by Murray Schisgal starring David Margulies (Ensemble Studio Theatre, NYC); Imagining Madoff by Deb Margolin (Theater J, DC); Eloise and Ray by Stephanie Fleishmann & Three Seconds in the Key by Deb Margolin (New Georges, NYC); Judith Sloan’s It Can Happen Here  (Jamaica PAC, NYC) and Salomé: Woman of Valor, with text by Adeena Karasick and music by Frank London (Vancouver, Toronto ART’s Oberon Theater).  Alex will direct The Mulberry Tree by Hanna Eady and Ed Mast for Loose Change Productions in 2024.

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