Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Review by Andy Klein

Yiddish Theater: A Love Story. The Folksbiene Theater was founded on New York’s Lower East Side in 1915, as one of many Yiddish troupes entertaining the legions of Jewish immigrants recently arrived from Europe. Fortysome years later, after surviving the Holocaust and Stalinist Russia, Zypora Spaisman came to America and reinvented herself as an actress in Yiddish theater. Another fortysome years later, toward the end of 2000, Israeli filmmaker Dan Katzir was visiting New York and met the 84-year-old actress Spaisman, just as Folksbiene Theater – now the city’s last Yiddish theater – was facing eviction. Charmed by the old woman’s enthusiasm, he set about to chronicle the desperate eight days during which Spaisman and her coworkers attempt to find a way to keep the theater alive. Katzir talks to some of the very few survivors of the form’s heyday, most of whom still display an offhanded wit. The result is uneven but ultimately charming – and sad – look at the disappearance of a centuries-old cultural tradition whose impact on our own culture has been inestimable. (AK)

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