Well Seth Rozin’s mother must be kvelling already. He’s written another geschmak morsel of theatre. And now he’s sharing this mitzvah with Philly: Interact Theatre Company’s hilarious production of TWO JEWS WALK INTO A WAR.
Okay, okay—I’ll stop patschkieing, put away my dog-eared copy of The Joys of Yiddish and get down to business here.
Mr. Rozin has an amazing knack for taking a story he reads in the news, exploring it from many angles and putting it onstage in a unique way (Men of Stone, Black Gold, Missing Link). In this case, it’s the story of the last two Jews in Kabul, Afghanistan. [Here’s a link to the original article for those of you who are curious like I am: http://interacttheatrecompany.blogspot.com/2011/02/audience-members-see-two-jews-then-help.html] Having read about the hardships the two faced—and the fact they can’t stand each other, Rozin decides the way to go is vaudeville. Seriously.
We swam into the Adrienne on Saturday night and made ourselves comfy in the front row. We are looking at a wonderfully executed set (Drew Francis) depicting a destroyed room in a Kabul synagogue. Debris is scattered around and there are splintered boards hanging from the ceiling. Yet some very peppy Klezmer music is playing. We know we’re in for something screwy. 90 minutes of it to be exact.
John Pietrowski (Zeblyan) and Tom Teti (Ishaq) work beautifully off of each other. Their portrayals of two men who’d rather nitpick at each other than deal with the destruction of their country are fun to watch. It’s always such a pleasure to see seasoned performers working with great material. They play the humor perfectly and then grab your heart beautifully in some more touching moments.
After a few quick scenes setting up the dynamic between the two men, starting with the burial of the third remaining Jew (who had been the buffer between them), they start trying to one-up each other on how to rebuild the once thriving Jewish community. Ishaq’s idea is to get an Afghani woman to convert, marry him and have his child. Zeblyan insists they need a rabbi and a Torah to do that. This leads to the two of them recreating a Torah on blood-spattered butcher paper. Zeblyan serves as the scribe as Ishaq dictates the entire Torah—with punctuation. (By the end of the run, I think Teti will have Bar Mitvahed himself several times over.) The discussions they detour into during this endeavor are side-splittingly funny. I won’t give any more away—you really have to see it for yourself.
Aiding Mr. Francis’ set design is the lighting by Peter Escalada-Mastick. He provides realistic transitions from day to night throughout—and some nifty explosion effects. Which leads me to the soundscape by Jeff Knapp: the music is perfect and the sounds of the Muslim prayers are also very evocative. And his part in creating the explosions is also well done—I jumped in my seat. Susan Smythe has created great costumes that look very authentic and allow the actors quick changes and easy movement. Props are by Avista Custom Theatrical Services and Danielle Constance-Pietrowski—a job well done gang.
Presiding over the madness is director James Glossman. Mazel Tov to you—you have created a solidly looney production that all will enjoy. So schlep your tuchis over to the Adrienne and catch InterAct’s TWO JEWS WALK INTO A WAR.
Kvetch — Complain, but much more aggravating.
Kvell — Extremely proud. Really set aside for parental pride when a child does something amazing, like Bar Mitzvah, marry a nice Jewish girl, Bat Mitzvah, marry a nice Jewish boy, become a Rabbi . . .you get the picture?
Geschmak — Tasty
Mitzvah — A blessing or commandment.
Patschkieing — Fooling around. Patshkie around — Waste time. Fool around when you should be doing something worthwhile, like writing a parody of “Cabaret.”
Tuchis — Behind. As in what you sit on.)
TWO JEWS WALK INTO A WAR
by Seth Rozin
Dierected by James Glossman
April 8 – May 8, 2011
InterAct Theatre Company
2030 Sansom Street
Philadelphia PA 19103