Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Yiddish Theater in WEHO NEWS: (West Hollywood News)


Film Review - Yiddish Theatre: A Love Story

February 14, 2008 – Film Review by Roy Oldenkamp, West Hollywood

West Hollywood, California (February 14, 2008) - Sometimes in life, we have to do what we think is right to fulfill a destiny.

Often in life, few others assist in this goal, watching quietly as a life becomes absorbed by a cause.

Such is the story of Zypora Spaisman in the enthralling new film, Yiddish Theatre: A Love Story.

This award-winning documentary chronicles the travails and triumphs of this fine actress, by necessity the company founder/director of the Yiddish Public Theater company in New York.

The film unwinds as a love song to the indomitable Ms. Spaisman, 84 year old survivor of Hitler’s pogroms and not ready to be taken down in her efforts to preserve Yiddish theater by something as inconsequential as sheer money.

Israeli filmmaker Dan Katzir lets his story unfold rhythmically and ensnares us scene by scene, getting us to root for the grand dame’s success in preserving a dying art form in an obscure language.

As cultures assimilate, the languages of indigenous peoples and isolated communities fall to the wayside, from the Indian reservations in the west and northwest to the Jewish dialects from streets of Brooklyn.

Yet Zypora Spaisman will persevere and keep this Yiddish art form alive, in New York, off Broadway and in the middle of one of the worst winters on record.

In the course of a Hanukah observance, the story reaches its peak and we watch the travails unfold daily and resolve themselves as smashing reviews come in and snowbound audiences stay home.

Throughout the film, one has the sad feeling that this is the final throe of both Ms. Spaisman and Yiddish theater.
It is charming and hopeful to see a handful of younger generation actors become involved in the art form and really pick up the mantle and fall whole heartedly into their work, inhabiting roles originated in the early twentieth century and making them their own.

Watching producer David Romeo become completely absorbed by his efforts to save the show is both heartfelt and poetic. Ms. Spaisman has the assistance of a vital few: she is not alone.

She has made her mark and kept a dream alive. With gratitude, we thank both Zypora Spaisman and Dan Katzir for allowing us to glimpse the sincerity and beauty of Yiddish theater.

Yiddish Theater: A Love Story. Check your local theatres for times and locations.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Beverly Hills Courier
The Cutler Review
February 8 2008

by Jerry Cutler
3 Bagels out of 4

Yiddish Theater: A Love Story doesn't hold out much hope for the future of Yiddish Theater.
The Award winning documentary directed by Dan Katzir and produced by Ravit Markus and Yael Katzir was, for my, a delightful trip down memory lane.
It tells the story of Zypora Spaisman, a sprightly and charismatic 84 year old actress and Holocause survivor, whose fortitue and dedication to the Yiddish art form had kept the Folksbiene theater alive for many years. There is great insight into the psyche of the elderly actors who are unwavering in their love for the theater. The story begins on the now multi-cultural lower East side of New York, as the show Green Fields, is performed to less than capacity customers.
Undaunted, two elderly producers and the hearty Ms. Spaisman, try to raise enough money to take them from the hard to get to theater to a Broadway venue and the possibility of more patrons.
You can guess the outcome of the venture, but the anticipation, the never say die attitude and Katzir's photography of the stark winter streets of New York, is a treat. When I wasa a young child, I remember my parents taking me to the second Avenue Yiddish Theatre to see a play starring Molly Picon. Her antics, even though I didn't understand the dialogue, stay with me till this day. My father was a Yiddish scholar and had his own program on New York's leading Jewish station, WEVD.
He spoke mainly English in the ouse with my New York born, mother. Today I can't hold an in depth Yiddish conversation.
I mourn the passing of Yiddish Theater and feel that I, and others like me, are in someway responsible for its demise. I apologize to Ms. Spaisman who I met during the run of a play at the the original Folksbiene Theater in the jewish Forward building on the lower East Side.
I owe a debt of gratitude to the Yiddish Theater: A Love Story which transported me back to a less complicated and carefree time of my life. It is currently at the Laemmle's Monica.
So, go see it already and enjoy.
3 bagels out of 4