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Photos: YIVO Institute For Jewish Research Presents One-Night-Only Production of BREACH OF PROMISE


Leon Kobrin's rediscovered 1912 play BREACH OF PROMISE, a darkly comic slice of tenement life in New York City, was presented Wednesday evening, July 31st at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in a newly commissioned English translation (from the original Yiddish) by writer/director Allen Lewis Rickman.

Among the attendees in the sold-out crowd was Leon Kobrin's granddaughter Robin Wright and her family.

Kobrin's play follows Katie Tsimbel, an unmarried 28-year-old, who has gotten herself "in trouble." At her mother's urging, she tries to force Bertshik, a Jewish ex-soldier in the Tsar's army whose fiancée is shortly expected to arrive in America, to marry her by framing him with a Breach of Promise charge.

Under the direction of Allen Lewis Rickman, the cast of BREACH OF PROMISE featured Yelena Shmulenson ("Orange is the New Black," "Boardwalk Empire," "The Knick," A SERIOUS MAN), Brian Morvant ("Gotham," "Blue Bloods," THE DEN), Jeremy Lawrence("The Blacklist," "Shades of Blue," FIVE BY TENN), Allen Lewis Rickman ("The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," TEVYE SERVED RAW, "Boardwalk Empire," A SERIOUS MAN), Jacqueline Sydney ("Seven Seconds," FILMIC ACHIEVEMENT, A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE GYNECOLOGIC ONCOLOGY UNIT...), Kevin Sebastian ("Blue Bloods," "Bull," "Murphy Brown"), Sergey Nagorny ("The Americans," "Limitless," "Criminal Minds"), and Trav S.D. (author of NO APPLAUSE-JUST THROW MONEY and CHAIN OF FOOLS: SILENT COMEDY AND ITS LEGACIES FROM NICKELODEONS TO YOUTUBE).

"It's about time Leon Kobrin was rediscovered. He was one of the most interesting Yiddish playwrights of his time," says Rickman. "And BREACH OF PROMISE was a play he was very proud of. It's a story of simple immigrants trying to adjust to the realities of an alien civilization; the characters are complex, the humor comes out of naturalistic situations, and the whole thing feels like a snapshot of the old Lower East Side. And its protofeminist elements and immigration theme give it a particularly contemporary ring."

Director Allen Lewis Rickman adapted and directed the 2003 revival of Leon Kobrin's THE LADY NEXT DOOR, the most successful straight-play production presented by the Folksbiene in decades. More recently he directed, co-translated and starred (along with Shane Baker and Yelena Shmulenson) in the unanimously acclaimed TEVYE SERVED RAW Off-Broadway. An original take on the work of Sholem Aleichem, the production went on to play in Romania at the State Jewish Theater in Bucharest, and the cast performed a selection from it at Carnegie Hall in the concert FROM SHTETL TO STAGE. He co-adapted, directed, and wrote supertitle translations for the Folksbiene's Drama Desk-nominated Yiddish PIRATES OF PENZANCE, and directed his own musical CHRISTMAS AT THE SMALL EMPIRE for Centenary Stage. He is also an internationally produced playwright, and his work has been presented in six languages. His co-written farce OFF THE HOOK was published in French in L'Avant-Scene Theatre, and his revue THE ESSENCE: A YIDDISH THEATER DIM SUM has toured widely and was published in an anthology co-edited by the late Harvey Pekar. His new subtitle translations for nine restored Yiddish films, including the classic TEVYA starring Maurice Schwartz, recently screened in a hugely popular festival at Film Forum, and will be released by Kino Lorber this year on DVD and Blu-ray.

YIVO's collections are the primary source of the documentary history of East European Jewry and the surviving record of millions of lives of Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The Library of the YIVO Institute is proud to possess one of the world's largest collections of Yiddish theater works from 1850 to 1950, the period that coincided with the flourishing of Jewish theater in Europe and the United States.

This special one-night-only event was a benefit for the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

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