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Arts & Culture: Theater

‘The Portrait’ is mostly empty

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The press materials for “The Portrait” by Sarah Levine Simon say that the play was first written for National Public Radio’s drama series “Simon Studio Presents.”

It may have worked better in that format than it does in the production now running at Theater 54 on West 54th Street. Stretched to what feels like a long 90 minutes, “The Portrait” is oddly light on plot and almost entirely lacking in wit. Not promising for what purports to be a satirical comedy.

The story is simple in the extreme. At a dinner party in a fancy Upper East Side apartment in 1982, two well-heeled older brothers and their wives meet and await the arrival of a younger cousin and his wife. Each of the couples owns a portrait of a Revolutionary Era ancestor, made by a well-known painter. The two older brothers, Henry and Toddy, bet that they can convince the young man, a struggling theater director, to sell his painting. The other painting will go to the winner as well, so the three portraits all will belong to one person. Why this is a big deal is unclear, but evidently it’s better if they are all together.

 
 

“Kaddish” at the 14th Street Y

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Jake Goodman in “Kaddish” Photo credit Ga´bor Kardos

“Kaddish,” a play based on Nobel Prize-winner Imre Kertész’s novel “Kaddish for an Unborn Child,” will run from January 10 to 13 at the Theater at the 14th Street Y. The one-man show, featuring Jake Goodman and directed by Barbara Lanciers, comes to the Y following a critically acclaimed run in Budapest in June. Tickets are $18 and can be purchased at www.14streety.org/boxoffice or by calling (800) 838-3006.

 
 

‘Handle with Care’

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Fluent Hebrew speakers who long to hear the language on stage should enjoy Charlotte Cohn’s rapid-fire delivery in “Handle with Care,” the new comedy at Westside Theatre/Downstairs on 43rd Street, but they will have to put up with a plot so corny and contrived that they may gasp at the chutzpah of it all. Written by Jason Odell Williams and directed by Karen Carpenter, “Handle with Care” tells the unconvincing story of two brokenhearted Jews — one American, one Israeli — who miraculously find each other in a dumpy motel in rural Virginia on Christmas Eve. Williams’ script alternates between the nights of December 23rd and December 24th to advance the action, as well as toggling between Hebrew-and-English and English-that’s-supposed-to-be-Hebrew. Cohn, who in real life is the playwright’s wife, gamely tries to keep her languages straight, but she often loses control of her accents. Who could blame her?

 
 

Sosua

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Inwood and Washington Heights, in northern Manhattan, boast the typical New York City cocktail of ethnic and religious groups, only more so.

More than half of the residents were born outside of the United States, the highest rate in Manhattan. There are Russian-speaking Jews, German-speaking Jews who have lived there since the 1940s, some Greeks, recent Irish immigrants as well as those who arrived ages ago, and many Spanish speakers from all over the Caribbean. Of the different Latino groups, people from the Dominican Republic, or DR, predominate, making up 70 percent of the Spanish-speaking population.

 
 

Schechter Rocks for All Ages

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Courtesy SSDS

Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County hosts “Schechter Rocks for All Ages” featuring “Story Pirates,” — a musical sketch comedy with stories by students, at the school, for 2- to 10-year-olds, Sunday, December 15, 10-11:30 a.m. 275 McKinley Ave., New Milford. (201)262-9898 or www.ssdsbergen.org/schechter-rocks.

 
 

‘Lies My Father Told Me’

Folksbiene tries something new; restages old movie

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The 99-year-old Folksbiene, under the executive direction of Bryna Wasserman, has been trying a lot of new things lately.

This season, its mainstage production is a musical version of the 1975 Academy Award-nominated film “Lies My Father Told Me.” It’s based on a memoir by Ted Allan about his youth in 1920s Montreal. Wasserman, who previously ran the Segal Centre for the Performing Arts in Montreal, introduced the musical there in 2005. Allan’s memories took many forms: first a short story, it was then a radio play, and later a play with music. A straight dramatic version ran at New York’s Jewish Repertory Theater in 1986.

 
 

3 shows billed at WPO center

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The Shea Center for Performing Arts at William Paterson University in Wayne will feature two shows on Sunday, November 17 at 2 p.m. “The Story Pirates,” is a musical sketch comedy based on funny stories written by children around the country. The show features the debut of four new stories written by child authors in attendance. There will be pre-show activities at 1:15.

Also at 2, there will be a vocal performance, “Time Stands Still,” by Fulbright scholar Artemisz Polonyi. His repertoire ranges from Bach to Debussy; from Bernstein to Ellington. The performance will be in WPU’s Hobart Manor.

On Tuesday, November 19, at 12:30 and 7 p.m., the American Place Theatre’s Literature to Life Stage presents “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls, performed by Sarah Franke and adapted/directed by Wynn Handman.

The Shea Center for Performing Arts at William Paterson University is located at 300 Pompton Road. Call (973) 720-2371 or www.wp-presents.org.

 
 

Kaplen JCC presents “Peter and the Wolf”

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The Kaplen JCC on the Palisades continues its Professional Children’s Theater Series with “Peter and The Wolf,” a Pushcart Players production, on Sunday, November 17, at 2 p.m. The series, for children 3 and older, includes performances by different New York City traveling companies.

For information, call (201) 408-1493 or www.jccotp.org/theaterseries.

 
 
 
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‘Lies My Father Told Me’

Folksbiene tries something new; restages old movie

The 99-year-old Folksbiene, under the executive direction of Bryna Wasserman, has been trying a lot of new things lately.

This season, its mainstage production is a musical version of the 1975 Academy Award-nominated film “Lies My Father Told Me.” It’s based on a memoir by Ted Allan about his youth in 1920s Montreal. Wasserman, who previously ran the Segal Centre for the Performing Arts in Montreal, introduced the musical there in 2005. Allan’s memories took many forms: first a short story, it was then a radio play, and later a play with music. A straight dramatic version ran at New York’s Jewish Repertory Theater in 1986.

 

Sosua

Inwood and Washington Heights, in northern Manhattan, boast the typical New York City cocktail of ethnic and religious groups, only more so.

More than half of the residents were born outside of the United States, the highest rate in Manhattan. There are Russian-speaking Jews, German-speaking Jews who have lived there since the 1940s, some Greeks, recent Irish immigrants as well as those who arrived ages ago, and many Spanish speakers from all over the Caribbean. Of the different Latino groups, people from the Dominican Republic, or DR, predominate, making up 70 percent of the Spanish-speaking population.

 

‘Handle with Care’

Fluent Hebrew speakers who long to hear the language on stage should enjoy Charlotte Cohn’s rapid-fire delivery in “Handle with Care,” the new comedy at Westside Theatre/Downstairs on 43rd Street, but they will have to put up with a plot so corny and contrived that they may gasp at the chutzpah of it all. Written by Jason Odell Williams and directed by Karen Carpenter, “Handle with Care” tells the unconvincing story of two brokenhearted Jews — one American, one Israeli — who miraculously find each other in a dumpy motel in rural Virginia on Christmas Eve. Williams’ script alternates between the nights of December 23rd and December 24th to advance the action, as well as toggling between Hebrew-and-English and English-that’s-supposed-to-be-Hebrew. Cohn, who in real life is the playwright’s wife, gamely tries to keep her languages straight, but she often loses control of her accents. Who could blame her?

 

 

 
 
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