Sunday, March 22, 2015

Applause! Applause! Review of New Yiddish Rep's Seltzer Nights: A Yiddish American Vaudeville at the Castillo Theatre by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of New Yiddish Rep's Seltzer Nights: A Yiddish American Vaudeville at the Castillo Theatre was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Seltzer Nights: A Yiddish American Vaudeville
Castillo Theatre (543 West 42nd Street, NYC)
Reviewed 3/21/15 at 7:00 p.m.

Seltzer Nights: A Yiddish American Vaudeville, co-created by Shane Baker, Beck Lee, Frank London and David Mandelbaum (your host for the evening), is the first of four monthly shows taking place at the fictitious Golden Beacon Theatre (located on a side street off Delancey) that will feature Yiddish songs and talent which has as its goal the perpetuation of Yiddish culture and the Yiddish language. It is hoped the best of the acts presented will be melted together into a new Yiddish Vaudeville Musical that will evoke the spirits of legends like Molly Picon, Jenny Goldstein, Jacob Adler, Boris Thomashefsky, Menasha Skulnik, Dzigan & Schumackher, and Fanny Brice. The goal is to incorporate and bring to life some of the risque songs and comedy routines that were all the rage on a Second Avenue once dotted with Yiddish Theatres and to present them to a widely diverse, mostly non-Yiddish speaking audience. There is no doubt the New Yiddish Rep will fail in that goal. This proposed new Yiddish American Musical has a future, but it is not on Broadway or Off-Broadway. Seltzer Nights, populated with a barely professional group of performers (with the definite exception of Daniella Rabbani, and the possible exceptions of Gina Healy and Amy Coleman) will instead do very well performing in front of older Yiddish-speaking Jewish audiences in Nursing Homes and retirement communities, especially in New York and Florida.

The one and only song that showed promise for bridging the gap between Yiddish and non-Yiddish speaking audience members was the song Fokhn, expertly and entertainingly performed by the very talented Daniella Rabbani. If the show featured songs and performers such as that, it would have been a whole different experience for audience members. Instead, the audience members around me mostly sat on their hands wondering when the torture would come to an end. The words "embarrassing" and "disaster" were commonly uttered during this amateur hour that failed to connect to non-Yiddish speaking audience members. The only relief was the occasional funny story or joke told by some of the performers, and even those jokes were so old the dust had to be blown off them before they were read. David Mandelbaum, the Master of Ceremonies, reported we were going to see a magician who is "so good that when he appears on stage, the audience disappears." Daniella Rabbani introduced a song about a young girl and an older man by saying, "Nowadays we'd call it pedophilia. Back then, it was just called love." Other jokes and funny stories included:

What do you call a Lesbian Dinosaur? A "LickALotAPuss". 

A Jewish woman, married for many years, goes to her Rabbi and says she wants a divorce. The Rabbi asks why and the woman says her husband no longer satisfies her sexually. He says, "When did you realize that?" She says, "Last night and again this morning."   

An old Jewish man looks down at his small penis and says, "We were born at the same time but you died before me!"

Two co-workers talking about a beautiful girl on the construction site. One says, "I really like her. She's such a good lay." The other co-worker says, "What are you talking about? Your wife is a better lay!"

An 86-year-old Jewish man goes into a confessional in a Catholic Church and tells the priest of his sexual exploits with a very young girl. The priest says, "You sound Jewish, are you?" He says yes and the priest asks, "You realize this is a Catholic Church and I am a priest, why are you telling me?" The Jewish man responds, "I AM TELLING EVERYONE!"

Seltzer Nights promises to keep you up at night...just like a good pastrami sandwich! I'd rather have the pastrami sandwich with mustard on rye bread and forget the Seltzer Nights. Still, if you are an older Yiddish-speaking Jewish person who is easily entertained and without very high artistic standards, then this show might be for you. For everyone else, I recommend you stay away. You can make your own egg cream! For more information about upcoming shows, visit:

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