responses and analysis of shows i've seen
These analysis make up my personally informed opinions.
Religion, family, and acceptance face off in Larry Rinkel’s A KREUTZER SONATA. The play depicts the difficulties of an observant Jewish young musician and that which challenges his religious rigidity. Currently showing at The Unfringed Festival at The Secret Theater, tickets are available for $18 HERE.
The play follows a skilled pianist, David, an orthodox Jew, and his equally skilled duet partner Elena, a staunch atheist. Their religious and cultural differences stand as obstacles to their duet performance of Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata for their university’s showcase. Additional conflicts arise from David’s Protestant roommate, David’s parents’ disintegrating marriage, and his father’s loss of faith. The story summarizes the experience of holding onto religion throughout difficult circumstances.
A KREUTZER SONATA portrays what happens when a resilient person faces unyieldingly difficult situations – that at some point they’ll need to choose to bend or break. As the play’s protagonist pursues his education in music school, his unanswered question about religious and family life result in snowballing of conflicts that amalgamate into a cacophony. Only once David acknowledges and reflects upon his rigidity do his issues begin to resolve.
The conflicts in this story – rigidity in perspective versus open-mindedness and religious fortitude versus loss of faith – are both relatable if not familiar. David’s path in a foreign environment stresses his religious views, molding him into a more flexible and open-minded person. This journey is exemplary of modern orthodox Judaism, which blends orthodox religious observance within the professional business or academic sphere, and resolves conflicts which may oppose religious observance with flexibility and open-mindedness.
Audiences with an interest in religion will enjoy the show’s discourse of religious observance in difficult circumstances – an especially important topic for those who identify as modern orthodox Jews. Furthermore, the show is successful in raising strong questions about faith and coexistence.
Overall A KREUTZER SONATA is a strong production for its stage in development. It raises important questions about religion, coexistence, and flexibility in perspective.
Strong movements, beautiful singing, and heartfelt emotions bring history to life in the Yiddish musical AMERIKE THE GOLDEN LAND. The musical follows the journey of Europe’s and Russia’s Jews to the Lower East Side, depicting their hardships, pain, and the joys of immigrant life. Showing at the Museum of Jewish Heritage on an extended run until August 20th, discount tickets are available here.
The musical revisits the archives of Yiddish theater to present a snapshot of immigrant life for early 20th century NYC Jews . The overall journey depicted in the show displays a culture of immigrants trying to “open doors” for their communities and their brethren in Europe. The story culminates with immigrants trying to keep the gates of Ellis Island open behind them, coming full circle to the show’s opening where immigrants push to open the gates before them.
Such a story is increasingly relevant in the US as immigration becomes a heated political issue. AMERIKE succeeds in relating its audience to the struggles of a class of immigrants who grew to become major contributors to US culture. It reminds New Yorkers of their humble beginnings, that at one point we were all immigrants. The show also encourages keeping our “gates open” for immigrants.
AMERIKE successfully portrays the difficulty of passing through Ellis Island as a family (sometimes a child or a spouse was withheld), the challenges of earning an income, and the fight for workers’ rights. This will resonate with audiences as these historical issues that were faced by the immigrants of the early 20th century still plague modern day immigrants and working class citizens.
The Yiddish component of this musical propels it, providing it with unparalleled authenticity. Furthermore, using the language of the immigrants reinforces the influence that Yiddish language has had on NY humor, entertainment, dialect, and culture. Furthermore, Yiddish is an emotive and witty language that when used in song can express sadness, happiness, anger, and humor in a simplistic and palatable combination. While most New Yorkers aren’t proficient in the language, many are familiar with some Yiddish words (oy vey!). The show displays subtitles in English and Russian so following along is easy.
To summarize, the Yiddish musical AMERIKE THE GOLDEN LAND immerses its audience in the struggles and joys of New York’s Jewish immigrants . AMERIKE is mindful of the past, yet empowering for modern audiences, making it relevant at a time when society needs both to move forward.
A taste of the music in the show Lebn zol kolumbus (Long Live Columbus!)
Packed with gunshots, violent lighting, a lingering spooky base effect which grows to a terrifying rumble, slaughter, and a torture scene, 1984 on Broadway is 100 minutes of gut dropping terror. Based off George Orwell’s 1984 dystopian novel, the play displays a grim world in which all is controlled by an omnipresent government that rules with such supreme force that people’s thoughts are constantly monitored. Those with disloyal thoughts are brutally punished. Showing at the Hudson Theater, discount tickets are available beginning at $35 here.
But what’s to say about the piece aside from a horrifically frightening contextualization of Orwell’s dystopia? For one, it beckons audiences to contemplate the absence of freedom of speech and expression. Also, because theater is experiential, audiences enter this chilling world in which people are tortured for thought crimes. This combination of contemplation and experience evokes a sobering discourse of freedom and government. On this, I argue the play fell short of its capability and my expectation.
The relevance of the extreme scenarios as comparative thought experiments is undoubtable. However, my expectation of 1984, as I would assume many others’, was that the dystopic play would offer discourse to current anxiety in global and American politics. In a time when people feel their government has run amok, that media can be infiltrated, and that digitalized information can be surveyed, a play such as 1984 can offer a voice of empowerment and positivity rather one of fright and hopelessness. Because the book and film is bleak, such a play could’ve offered a more positive narrative with a contrasting display of hope and resilience at a time when people most need it.
Conclusively, the play does an outstanding job drawing its audience into the horrors and extremism of Orwell’s 1984. Unfortunately, it does little else.