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2X Malamud: The Jewbird & The Magic Barrel

Posted by archangelinamerica on August 11, 2007

malamud portraitThis past Thursday I attended Traveling Jewish Theatre’s opening night of 2X Malamud: The Jewbird & The Magic Barrel. Due to my imminent need to catch a plane, I cannot provide a full review and analysis at this time. I did want to give everyone a recommendation to go and see the show if they have the chance.

The stories were adapted in the “Word for Word” style. This means that there is virtually no adaptation other than the assigning of lines. All the actors are both characters and narrators. I found the style very jarring at first but I was able to adapt to it over the course of the evening. The actors really are just telling Malamud’s stories.

The first story of the evening is actually The Magic Barrel, a tale about a nervous, uptight and resentful rabbinical student who seeks the services of a dubious marriage broker.
This story dovetails nicely into some of our recent discussions about Jewish dating. Corey Fischer’s performance as the ingratiating marriage broker (named Zaltsman) is well suited to the style of the show. He has a delightful moment where he is eating on stage that caused me to want to laugh and vomit all at once. The performance was a bit more caricature than character but this was just the right style for this show. I found his performance to be a little untruthful in the role of Willy Loman the past spring. But he has more than made up for it with this bit of magic. Jeri Lynn Cohen, who had an outstanding performance as Linda Loman, does not disappoint in this performance either as she plays two love interests of the young rabbinical student (played excellently by Max Gordon Moore). She forces the student to evaluate himself and his choices quite unintentionally. Tamar Cohn rounds out the cast as the land-lady and various other roles, including a puppeteer.

The second story is The Jewbird. The cast really shows its skill as they adopt very different types of roles. Gordon takes on the role of the overbearing husband, Cohen the role of the cheery wife, and Cohn the role of the distracted pre-adolescent son. Fischer plays a similar character but with a much more physical style. He is the Jewbird; an actual bird (who can talk, no less) and seeks shelter in this families home from elements and other birds who he claims are anti-Semites (pronounced “Semeets”). The father is less than pleased with the new house guest, but the rest of the family enjoys his company and the son’s mathematics grades improve. I won’t spoil the ending, but it delivers a powerful message about the importance of community, and how our community must protect itself.

Both of these stories are more traditional folktales with a strong dose of morality. However, the audience is not hit over the head with the theme. There is some ambiguity and room for discussion. Malamud clearly focused on the delightful stories he wished to tell and let’s the reader (or in this case, the audience) draw its own conclusion. I believe I shall remember this performance for quite some time. Perhaps it is just due to my own love of fairytale and folklore (especially that of our tribe). As I think about it, I enjoyed the performances, but they weren’t all the greatest. The directing was good but not amazing. And I would have liked to have seen a more traditional theatrical adaptation of the script. Despite all of this though, I still greatly enjoyed the evening and was touched by the simple elegance of these stories. I hope you will all take the advantage and see this show. It only plays for 3 weeks total so time is already ticking. More information is available at www.atjt.com.

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2 Responses to “2X Malamud: The Jewbird & The Magic Barrel”

  1. Check out the San Jose Mercury News’ Rave Review

  2. […] Terry Gross interviews Phillip Roth (Jew author extraordinaire). They discuss the last of his books featuring the recurring character Zuckerman. Zuckerman’s now-dead mentor is described as a well-respected writer who wrote no novels, but many short stories with ‘Jews’ as their focus. This has lead many people to speculate that Zuckerman and his mentor is really code for Roth and Malamud. […]

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