Light Show

Special To The Jewish Week

In his foundational mystical text, “Sha’are Orah” (Gates of Light), the 13th-century Spanish kabbalist Joseph ben Abraham Gikatilla used light as a metaphor to stand for the essence of the divine. For composer David Homan and his wife, choreographer Ariel Grossman, light is a symbol of human energy and striving. Their new work, “Ori” (My Light), premieres next week at a festival in Chelsea that also features the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane and Carolyn Dorfman Dance Companies.

Ariel Grossman and David Homan, the husband-and-wife team behind the Ariel Rivka Dance Company.

Not Your Average Arias

Special To The Jewish Week

‘I’ve always been fascinated by the Holocaust,” playwright Steven Carl McCasland mused recently, as one of his plays was about to open in New York. In one of them, “Der Kanarienvogel,” soprano Elisabeth Schwartzkopf (Anna Kirkland) grapples with accusations that she is a Nazi sympathizer. A cast of more than two dozen actors is presenting a total of five of McCasland’s plays in repertory this month in Kips Bay; the festival also includes “Little Wars,” about a fictional dinner party in which Gertrude Stein has a fateful dinner party with Lillian Hellman, Muriel Gardiner, and other writers, in the middle of which France falls to Germany.

Soprano Elisabeth Schwartzkopf is subject of new play.  Wikimedia Commons

Stalin Was One Tough Critic

Special To The Jewish Week

He was one of the greatest actors of all time, but his life and career depended on pleasing a megalomaniacal monster. In David Schneider’s new play, “Making Stalin Laugh,” Solomon Mikhoels struggles to keep the Moscow State Jewish Theater (known as GOSET) afloat at a perilous time when policies of state were in constant flux; notably unstable were policies toward the arts and the Jews, whom the Soviets alternately lauded for their opposition to Fascism and reviled for their ties to a foreign homeland. New Yiddish Rep presents the play this Sunday and Monday in a workshop production in the East Village.

Gera Sandler stars as Solomon Mikhoels in the New Yiddish Rep’s “Making Stalin Laugh.” Yanay Yahiel

And Baby Makes…

Special To The Jewish Week

Overpopulation may pose a dire threat to the planet, but how often does it factor in a woman’s decision about whether or not to have a baby? In Steven Somkin’s new play, “Melissa’s Choice,” a feminist Jewish attorney finds herself caught between her principles and her desire to procreate. Like Wendy Wasserstein’s 1988 play “The Heidi Chronicles,” but within a 21st-century framework, “Melissa’s Choice” centers on a woman who struggles to “have it all” — to be fulfilled in terms of her deepest yearnings and values. The play is running on Theatre Row in Midtown.

Steven Somkin deals with women’s contemporary choices in “Melissa’s Choice.”

‘The Religion Of Art’ On The Lower East Side

Special To The Jewish Week

With the passing earlier this month of Judith Malina, the co-founder of the Living Theatre, the Lower East Side lost one of its true artistic pioneers. But while Malina was associated with the heyday of the counterculture in the 1960s, the neighborhood has continued to support a vibrant experimental theater scene until the present day, and to nurture the careers of a plethora of Jewish artists.

Clove Galilee is the subject of new one-woman play. Quincy Stamper

A Stage For Compassion

Special To The Jewish Week

Often maligned as a singular stereotype in pop culture, in real life the Jewish mother comes in all shapes, sizes and personalities. In Deb Margolin’s new solo work, “8 Stops,” the performance artist copes with her own potentially fatal illness, her son’s terror of death and her sudden impulse to provide succor to a Scottish immigrant boy she meets on the subway. The play opens this week in the West Village and runs until the last weekend of April — just two weeks before Mother’s Day.

Deb Margolin in scene from her one-woman show, “8 Stops.”  Raymond Reilly

Heidi’s Struggles Still Relevant

Special To The Jewish Week

When Wendy Wasserstein won the Pulitzer Prize in 1989 for “The Heidi Chronicles,” her overbearing mother, Lola, is said to have boasted that the prize was a Nobel — even the Pulitzer represented a falling short. Little wonder that the play, which is now back on Broadway, centers on a woman who is deeply conflicted about her own professional success, even as she attempts to balance the competing demands of work and family. Charles Isherwood of the New York Times lauded the revival, which opened in mid-March, as “vibrant,” with a “softly radiant” lead performance by Elizabeth Moss (“Mad Men”) as Heidi.

Elizabeth Moss and Jason Biggs in "The Heidi Chronicles." Joan Marcus

Beefing Up The Backstory Of ‘An American In Paris’

Creators of revival seeking to convey the emotional toll of the occupation and the Holocaust.

Special To The Jewish Week

For Broadway producer Stuart Oken, there are few career moments as transformative as receiving an invitation from the Gershwin family. A lifelong fan of Gershwin’s standards and symphonic works, Oken jumped at the opportunity for a meeting where he was asked to adapt the 1951 film, “An American in Paris,” into a Broadway musical. However, as a producer specifically of new musicals, Oken was hesitant about developing a show that “felt like a revival”; in other words, that it felt old. Adding to that was the film’s vague storyline and tenuous historical context.

The cast of “An American in Paris.” The new script is rewritten “as a more complex narrative.” Angela Sterling

Two Brothers, One Bomb

Special To The Jewish Week

While Iran’s nuclear ambitions weighed heavily on the minds of many Israeli voters as they went to the polls this week, a play opened in New York that asks whether or not two wealthy Jewish brothers from the Upper West Side should have invented the atom bomb in the first place. Jack Karp’s new drama, “Irreversible,” centers on J. Robert Oppenheimer (Jordan Kaplan) and his younger brother, Frank (Josh Doucette) who beat out the Nazis in the race to build the atom bomb only to be staggered by its power of destruction and to oppose the creation of the even more powerful hydrogen bomb. The play, which is directed by Melanie Moyer Williams, runs through March 29 at the 14th Street Y.

Jordan Kaplan, Amelia Matthews and Josh Doucette in “Irreversible.” Bruce Cohen

KulturfestNYC Is Folksbiene’s ‘Gift To The City’

Yiddish theater marks 100th anniversary with international Jewish performing arts festival, set for June.

Culture Editor

It’s like the Summer Olympics of Yiddish, without the competition.

In a week of back-to-back performances, Yiddish will be heard in multi-accented songs, shouts and whispers on stages throughout the city, when the National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene presents KulturfestNYC, an ambitious celebration of its 100th anniversary being billed as a major international Jewish performing arts festival.

The Folksbiene’s Bryna Wasserman, left, and Zalmen Mlotek, right, with lyricist Sheldon Harnick. Michael Priest
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