Swingin’ Chanukah with Kenny Ellis; The Klezmatics at the Disney; Three More Tenors
Saturday the 16th
To our knowledge, only one man can claim all of the following titles: writer, director, actor, comedian and Dixieland jazz clarinetist. Artist of all trades Woody Allen focuses tonight on that latter occupation. He and his crew, a.k.a. Woody Allen and his New Orleans Jazz Band, perform in a rare large venue appearance at UCLA’s Royce Hall as part of their first North American tour.
8 p.m. $25-$125. Royce Hall, UCLA, Westwood. www.uclalive.org.
Sunday the 17th
” target = “_blank”>www.kennyellis.com
Thursday the 21st
Arts in LA
Sat., Dec. 9
“Jamaica, Farewell.” Jamaica Cultural Alliance benefit performance of the one-woman show, written and performed by Debra Ehrhardt, about her bold escape from revolution-torn Jamaica in the early 1980s. Post-performance reception with Jamaican specialties and an exhibit of Jamaican artist Bernard Hoyes’ work. 7:30 p.m. $35. The Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank. (323) 692-0423.
Filipino American Jazz Festival. Two-day festival features Filipino jazz vocal quintet Crescendo; pianist, conductor and arranger Toti Fuentes; vocalist Charmaine Clamor; and saxophonist Julius Tolentino, among others. Jazz-Phil. 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.; also Dec. 10, 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. $25-$30. Catalina Bar and Grill, 6725 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 512-5543, ext. 2.
Sun., Dec. 10
“Laugh Is Hope Comedy Club” Aboard the Queen Mary. Comedy, fashion, silent auction and dancing fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Featuring comedian Steven E. Kimbrough. 7-11:30 p.m. $65. (909) 631-0100. www.laughishope.com.
Debbie Reynolds’ Show-Stopping Hits. Reynolds pairs with dance partner Jerry Antes in this musical revue. 3 p.m. $35-$57.50. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, 12700 Center Court Drive, Cerritos. (800) 300-4345.
Mon., Dec. 11
Los Angeles Master Chorale’s “Messiah” Sing-Along. Music Director Grant Gershon conducts the Master Chorale and the audience in a singalong to Haydn’s masterpiece, including the “Hallelujah Chorus.” 7:30 p.m. Also Dec. 18, 7:30 p.m. $19-$64. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (800) 787-5262.
Tue., Dec. 12
Matthew Bourne’s “Edward Scissorhands.” Adaptation of Tim Burton’s gothic fairytale motion picture. Dance at the Music Center with Center Theatre Group. 8 p.m. $35-$85. Through Dec. 31. Ahmanson Theatre at the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 365-3500. www.musiccenter.org/dance.
“Slava’s Snowshow.” This theatrical extravaganza, created by master clown Slava Polunin, melds the art of clowning with visual images and fantasy, culminating in a snowstorm that engulfs the audience. UCLA Live series. 8 p.m. $32-$68. Through Jan. 7. Royce Hall, UCLA campus, Los Angeles. (310) 825-2101. www.UCLALive.org.
Thu., Dec. 14.
Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter. The comedians, two of the stars and creators of the 2005 TV show “Stella,” appear together. 8 p.m. $22.50. Wiltern LG, 3790 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 388-1400.
Fri., Dec. 15.
Tyne Daly in Scenes From “Agamemnon.” Stephen Wadsworth directs a small cast performing significant scenes from the first play in the “Oresteia” trilogy and explores Aeschylus’ dramaturgy, literary identity, and preoccupations as artist and citizen. Villa Theater Lab. 8 p.m. Also Dec. 16, 8 p.m.; Dec. 16, 3 p.m. $17. Getty Villa Auditorium, 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu. (310) 440-7300.
Sat., Dec. 16.
Woody Allen and his New Orleans Jazz Band. Writer, actor, director and jazz clarinetist Allen performs with his jazz ensemble. 8 p.m. $25-$125. Royce Hall, UCLA Campus, Los Angeles. (310) 825-2101.
“Gold Rush!” Interactive programs allows visitors to discover the myths and realities of the American gold rush. 30-minute programs, ongoing between 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Sat. and Sun. Free with museum admission ($3-$7.50). The Autry National Center’s Museum of the American West, 4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles. (323) 667-2000.
Thu., Dec. 21
Bolshoi Ballet Academy’s “Nutcracker.” More than 50 dancers from the Bolshoi Academy perform this family holiday classic to Tchaikovsky’s music. 7:30 p.m. Through Dec. 24. $15-$55. 300 East Green St., Pasadena. (213) 365-3500.
Fri., Dec. 22
Hoobastank. Alternative pop/rock group best known for their crossover hit “The Reason.” 7 p.m. $17-$20. The Key Club, 9039 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. (310) 274-5800.
Thu., Jan. 4
“Saul Bass: The Hollywood Connection.” Exhibition of the graphic designer’s work for the American film industry includes film posters, a montage of motion picture title sequences and an Oscar-nominated short documentary. Our California Series. Through April 1. Free. Related film screenings on Tuesday afternoons, through February. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. www.skirball.org.
Fri., Jan. 5
“Up Close and Personal.” Exhibition of Gilbert B. Weingourt’s candid photos of icons and public figures from the late 1960s through the mid-1970s. 11 a.m.-midnight, daily through Feb. 15. Reception with the photographer Jan. 13, 6 p.m.-8 p.m. ArcLight Cinemas Galleries, 6360 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 464-1478.
Blues Traveler Concert. Hamonica Virtuoso John Popper performs with his blues and rock band, best known for their hit “Run Around.” 8 p.m. $25-$47.50. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, 12700 Center Court Drive, Cerritos. (800) 300-4345.
Sat., Jan. 6.
Louis Malle’s “Black Moon” and “Lacombe Lucien.” Part of American Cinematheque’s “Overlooked and Underrated” series, showcasing films from the 1940s through the 1980s that received modest praise when released but have emerged as classics. Upcoming films include Jules Dassin’s “10:30 PM Summer,” Edward Dmytryk’s “Mirage” and Robert Mulligan’s “Baby, the Rain Must Fall,” among others. 7:30 p.m. Through Feb. 4. $7-$10. Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 466-3456.
Art Garfunkel. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame legend performs his greatest hits and personal favorites, including “Mrs. Robinson” and “Sound of Silence.” 8 p.m. $32-$57.50. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, 12700 Center Court Drive, Cerritos. (800) 300-4345.
Melody of China and The Hsiao Hsi Yuan Puppet Theater. Director Hong Wang narrates an exploration of Chinese music played on traditional instruments. Also, southern Chinese traditional puppet theater, “budai that,” with stage movements and vocal styles adopted from Peking Opera. World City Series. 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Free. W.M. Keck Foundation Children’s Amphitheater, Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 972-3379. www.musiccenter.org
Tue., Jan. 9.
Justin Timberlake’s “Futuresex/LoveShow.” Accompanied by a 14-piece band and back-up dancers, Timberlake will perform in the round. Includes special guest Pink. 8 p.m. $56-$97.50. Honda Center, 2695 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim. www.hondacenter.com. Also Jan. 16 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. (213) 480-3232.
Fri., Jan. 12
“Defiance.” Set in 1971, this second play in John Patrick Shanley’s trilogy that began with “Doubt!” explores race relations on a North Carolina military base. Through Feb. 18. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena. (626) 356-7529.
Choice of a Jew generation
If you’re in a bookstore and see a book with two impish-looking guys trying to sneak a light for their cigarettes from a chanukiah, then you’ve happened upon “Jewtopia: The Chosen Book for the Chosen People” (Warner).
Yes, the saga of Los Angeles’ longest running original play continues. “Jewtopia,” the play, was first brought to us in 2003 by two unemployed writers/actors who maxed out their credit cards to mount the funny, if somewhat stereotypical, comedy about dating and Jews. It was originally supposed to run for six weeks but was so popular that it extended for another year, then left in 2004 for an off-Broadway run in New York, where it’s still playing to sold-out audiences.
Now Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson, the creators and sometime actors in the play have expanded their “Jewtopia” vision into a book, and they are working on a movie deal as well. The 200-plus page color book, might be mistaken for a coffee table book — except that much of the material inside is not fit for the living room.
Consider, “The Jewish Kama Sutra: An Illustrated Guide to Lovemaking,” because “Jews are certainly not known for their prowess and skills in the bedroom.” Positions include “The Challah,” “The Heimlich,” “The Reader” “The Minyan” and “Bubbe’s Visit” (She cleans while he…oh, don’t ask.)
“It’s to be read in the bathroom only,” jokes Wolfson, who plays Adam Lipschitz, a Jewish guy facing extraordinary parental pressure to marry a Jewish woman.
“I think it should be read at the family seder — it’s a good substitute for the Haggadah,” replies Fogel, who in the show plays Chris O’Connell, a Christian obsessed with meeting a Jewish woman who strikes up a bargain with Adam to help him pass as a Jew if Chris can find Adam a date.
To be sure, there’s more than just sex jokes in “Jewtopia: The Chosen Book…” There’s a chapter on Jewish History, the Holidays (“Celebrate the Bad Times”), Food (“Anyone Have Some Zantac?”) Travel (“Planes, Trains and Diarrhea”) and Conspiracy Theories (“Do Jews Control the World?”) with real, live facts mixed in with, well, bubbemeises, like Moses’ lost diary or the game “Match the Nose to the Jew.”
In a world where it’s hip to be sardonic about Jewish identity (Heeb, Jewcy, Rabbis Daughter) “Jewtopia: The Chosen Book…” is a more idealistic, “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Jewish Stereotypes” kind of take on our people-sophomoric and sometimes scatological humor by two guys who are clearly having fun.
“We kind of consider ourselves the Trey Parker and Matt Stone of the Jewish world,” Wolfson says, referring to the creators of “South Park.” “Not so much enforcing stereotypes but having fun with them.
So they’re not self-hating Jews?
“We hate ourselves for so many other reasons,” Wolfson says. “There are so many good reasons to hate ourselves aside from being Jewish.”
Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson will be reading from “Jewtopia: The Chosen Book for the Chosen People” on Nov. 2, at 7:30 p.m. at Barnes and Noble, 16461 Ventura Blvd., Encino.— Amy Klein, Religion Editor
7 Days in The Arts
Saturday, May 6
Playwright Colette Freedman offers two divergent works now on the stage. “Iphigenia at Aulus” is Freedman’s adaptation (in rhyming iambic pentameter, no less) of Euripides’ classic tale about the Greek king who must sacrifice his daughter to assure a victory in his attack on Troy. “Sister Cities,” by contrast, is her more straightforward story of four sisters reunited after the death of their mother. They both play this weekend at Circus Theatricals Studio Theatre at the Hayworth.
$15-$20. 2511 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>
Sunday, May 7
2 p.m. $20. 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. (310) 440-1246.
Monday, May 8
The intense relationship between 30-something displaced cowboy Harlan Carruthers and rebellious teen Tobe creates the backbone of the new movie, “Down in the Valley,” which opens this week. Edward Norton and Evan Rachel Wood star in this dark film written and directed by David Jacobson.
Laemmle Theatres. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>
Tuesday, May 9
Existential questions make for a unifying theme in Jewish Artist Network’s latest group show. Sharing a space at 661 N. Spaulding will be Heather Rose’s color photography layered negatives, Jeremy Oberstein’s combined photographic images, Joseph Mamos’ watercolors, Moshe Hammer’s illustrated Hebrew calligraphy, Yoshimi Hashimoto’s photo-based imagery and Zlata’s acrylic and oils.
Noon-5 p.m. (Tues., Thurs., Sun., or by appointment.) JAN Gallery, 661 N. Spaulding, Los Angeles. (562) 547-9078. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>
Wednesday, May 10
This month, the American Cinematheque at the Aero Theatre solutes the comic works of favorite nebbish Woody Allen. Tonight, catch his classic comic fantasy, “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” about a depression-era waitress’ love affair with a matinee idol. Screenings of “Hannah and Her Sisters” and “Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask)” are scheduled for later in May.
7:30 p.m. $6-$9. 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica. (323) 466-3456. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>
Thursday, May 11
Hope Edelman, author of “Motherless Daughters,” visits Village Books this evening, to discuss her new follow-up book, “Motherless Mothers.” Attend the book signing to hear her talk about the experience of motherless women when they become mothers themselves.
7:30 p.m. Free. Village Books, 1049 Swarthmore Ave., Pacific Palisades. (310) 454-4063.
Friday, May 12
Opening this week is the Zimmer Children’s Museum’s latest exhibition, “show & tell: the art of time” Seventy-eight artists, humanitarians and social activists created unique, often whimsical sculptures playing on the theme of “time.” The pieces will be auctioned off at the May 7 opening reception, to benefit youTHINK public school art and education program, but will remain on view through June 9.
Open Tues.-Thurs., and by special arrangement by calling Carrie Jacoves, (323) 761-8992. $3 (ages 3-12), $5 (adults), Free (ages 2 and under, and grandparents accompanying a grandchild). Zimmer Museum and Jewish Federation Bell Family Gallery, 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 761-8990. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>
7 Days in The Arts
Spectator – A Night at the Hebraic Opera
Opera fans don’t mind watching theater unfold in a foreign language. So perhaps Molière fans will enjoy seeing his work performed in Hebrew.
That’s one of the hopes of Ori Dinur, director of “The Imaginary Invalid,” Molière’s 17th century comedy about a hypochondriac and his machinations, playing in Hebrew at the University of Judaism on Feb. 16.
“If you know Hebrew a little bit or you just love theater and you want to enjoy something different, it’s enough to have synopsis in your hand,” said Dinur, 40. The Israeli writer-director-teacher adapted Natan Alterman’s complex translation into a simpler Hebrew play so that even more basic Hebrew speakers can understand it.
The cast is comprised of 11 Jewish actors of different backgrounds, including Iran, Yemen, Russia, Poland, Morocco, Gibraltar and the United States. All but one of the actors — Jordan Werner — are Israeli. The 31-year-old Floridian, just a year in Los Angeles, can read Hebrew from his Jewish day school upbringing but barely understands it. For his part, as the lover Cleante, Werner memorized all his lines with coaching from the rest of the cast; he still betrays an American accent thick on the “rrrs.”
“As an actor, I really believe you get the feeling from a connection with someone. And I have to look into their eyes and feel what they’re saying so it’s really a lesson to me, how to react to only what they feel,” Werner said.
“The Imaginary Invalid” is Dinur’s first project for her new organization, The Jewish-Hebrew Stage. Together with Yoram Najum The Jewish-Hebrew Stage plans to bring Hebrew and Israeli theater to Los Angeles, as well as teach Hebrew through drama.
“I notice there is awkwardness between Israelis and the American Jewish community here, a little alienation,” said Dinur, who has been living in the Valley for the last five years. “I’d very much like to create an atmosphere of creation that has to do with Israelis and Jewish Americans. We share so many things, and we can learn so much from people who lived here for generations — and they can learn so much from us, too.”
“The Imaginary Invalid” plays Feb. 16, at 8:30 p.m., at the University of Judaism, 15600 Mullholland Drive, Bel Air. For tickets, call (818) 763-7379.
Spectator – Fiddle Dee Dee and Oy Vey!
7 Days in The Arts
JEWISH BOOK MONTH
G.E.E. Super Singles: 8 p.m. Learn to rumba with Harris Davis. $5-$7. Westfield Center Community Room, 14006 Riverside Drive, Sherman Oaks. (818) 501-0165.
Project Next Step: 8 p.m. “Coffee Talk” with
|” width=”1″ height=”8″ alt=””>|
Westwood Jewish Singles
7:30 p.m. Discussion on “Family Conflicts: How to Deal With Them” with therapist Maxine Geller. $10. R.S.V.P., (310) 444-8986.
The New JCC at Milken: 8-11 p.m. Israeli folk
dancing with James Zimmer. $5-$6. 22622 Vanowen
St., West Hills.
|” width=”1″ height=”8″ alt=””>|
Nexus (20s-40s): 6 p.m.
Volleyball followed by dinner at a local
restaurant. End of Culver Boulevard, near court
15, Playa del Rey. ” width=”1″ height=”30″ alt=””>
L.A.’s Fabulous Best
Aish L.A. Singles (22-35): Dating Madness. An
New JCC at Milken (20s/30s and 40+): 7:30-10
Chef Richard’s: 6 p.m. Fresh Mex Fiesta. Buffet
7 Days in the Arts
The Tao of Woody
Church Honors Gibson ‘Inspiration’
Roasting Woody Allen — Gently
One could call “Who Killed Woody Allen?” a “benign revenge comedy.” Co-authors Tom Dunn, Dan Callahan and Brendan Connor wrote the whodunit after Allen allegedly withdrew the rights to his play, “Death,” from their theater company in 2001. The playwrights say they had already rented a theater, hired 15 actors and were a week into rehearsal when they received the news. “So we decided to move from Woody Allen’s ‘Death’ to Woody Allen’s death,” Dunn said.
The black comedy is set at Allen’s funeral, with his celebrity friends as suspects. But it’s more of an homage than a roast. (Number of Soon-Yi gags: one.)
“We’re huge Woody fans, and we respect him too much to take potshots,” Connor said.
“We’re comedy writers in large part because of his influence,” Dunn said.
In fact, the 32-year-old authors have been in love with Allen’s films since they attended Holy Trinity High while growing up in Levittown, N.Y. The childhood friends viewed Allen movies together such as “Mighty Aphrodite” and “Manhattan Murder Mystery.”
Of why these Irish Catholics admire the Jewish auteur, Connor said, “It’s hysterical the way he captures uniquely New York neuroses.”
Dunn, for his part, said, “We really connected to Woody’s thoughtful absurdist humor. We drew on that when we started doing improvisational comedy together in high school.”
The friends moved from improv to sketch comedy to founding their Empty Stage Theatre Company around 2000. The goal was to produce lesser-known works by well-known authors; after staging an obscure David Mamet piece, the Allen fans set their sights on “Death.” According to Dunn, Allen granted the rights to one production but declined when the opening dates changed. “We were totally shocked,” Dunn said.
Eventually the “Death” rights issue inspired a play about Allen’s last rites; but the piece doesn’t dis Allen. In fact, the authors invited the filmmaker to opening night, assuming he’d get a kick out of the tribute. Instead, they received a letter from Allen’s attorney, Irwin Tenenbaum: “Mr. Allen appreciates your invitation but is unable to attend,” states the letter, which The Journal viewed on a Web site. “Since I have not read the play and am unfamiliar with its contents, I trust that you have adhered to and stayed within the parameters of applicable law with regard to the use of my client’s name and character. I reserve all of my client’s rights with regard to this project, should events prove otherwise.”
Actually, the play makes relatively few references to Allen. Rather, it focuses on the shenanigans of the funeral’s self-absorbed celebrity guests, who include a stammering Diane Keaton (Jillann Dugan), a kvetchy Alan Alda (Ed Moran) and a creepy Christopher Walken (Peter Loureiro). The stars pay their last respects rather disrespectfully, treating the service like a photo-op, a chance to glean publicity and promote their films.
The funeral itself is structured like an awards ceremony, with Oscar host Billy Crystal (Christopher Wisner) as emcee. “Sitting shiva, cover the ‘mirra,’ it’s going to be a Jewish funeral tonight,” Crystal sings in an Oscar-style medley. The stars continue their shameless mugging even as a detective arrives to interrogate them (we’re told Allen’s ex, Mia Farrow, has been cleared because she was in Angola at the time of the murder, “auditioning children to adopt.”)
“The play is a satirical take on celebrity culture,” Dunn said. “Of course, we’re spoofing what we want the most — celebrity — and the irony isn’t lost on us.”
“Who Killed Woody Allen?” is apparently moving the authors closer to that goal. The play ran for eight months off-Broadway, earned rave reviews and will have its Los Angeles debut Sept. 22, directed by Dunn, with most of the original cast in tow.
The co-authors, meanwhile, are pitching TV and film projects, including the movie rights to “Who Killed Woody Allen?” “We even asked Woody if he was interested in directing,” Dunn said. “But we haven’t received a response.”
“Who Killed Woody Allen?” runs Sept. 22-Oct. 3 at the Improv Olympic West Theater, 6636 Hollywood Blvd., in Hollywood. For tickets, $18, and information, call (323) 960-4412 or visit www.plays411.com/wkwa.
For more information about the play, visit
7 Days In Arts
The A’s have it. This afternoon, Tobey C. Moss Gallery hosts an opening reception for its latest exhibition by printmakers, “Arenal, Arp, Armano and Abramson: Multiculturalism.” The short list of artists is a sampling of the four different ethnic backgrounds represented in the show: Latin American, European, Japanese and Israeli. Works by Dov Heller, Moshe Gershuni and Alex Kremer of the Jerusalem Print Workshop will also be displayed.
Yom HaShoah events abound today, with everything from memorial services to the release of “Prisoner of Paradise” at Laemmle theaters. Plenty of time, however, to also catch the newly opened play, “Ancient History.” Peruse our cover story listings to commemorate as you choose (p. 15). Then grab a dose of some much-needed comic relief: Today it comes in the form of David Ives’ bitterly comic story of intercultural sparring, as a 35-year-old Jewish woman endeavors to get her Catholic-raised, atheist boyfriend to commit.
Can one really resist a group that calls itself the Armadillo String Quartet? We think not. Today they back up composer Peter Schickele as he plays piano and offers commentary in a program of chamber music he wrote, aptly titled, “Music by Peter Schickele.”
Jews in film make it into the Arclight’s lineup today and
7 Days In Arts
Fear and Self-Loathing in Atlanta
When Alfred Uhry was growing up in a German Jewish family in Atlanta, he didn’t know what a bagel was. The word, "klutz" was as foreign to him as Chinese.
"I never attended a bar mitzvah, much less had one," Uhry, 66, said from his Manhattan home.
Instead, he sang the lead solo in a school Christmas choir and celebrated the Yuletide around his family tree.
Although he wasn’t welcome at the Christian holiday cotillions, he attended the German Jewish ball, Ballyhoo, which in turn excluded Eastern European Jews.
The ball becomes a metaphor for Jewish self-loathing in Uhry’s 1997 play, "The Last Night of Ballyhoo," which opens South Coast Repertory’s 40th season Sept. 5. The comedy-drama revolves around two families preparing for Ballyhoo in 1939 as Hitler invades Poland and the film "Gone With the Wind" premieres in Atlanta.
Into the fray arrives Joe, a Russian American Jew from Brooklyn, who is so shocked by the family’s Southern airs (their names include Lala and Boo) he asks, "Are you people really Jewish?"
Another character in the play describes Ballyhoo as "a lot of dressed-up Jews dancing around, wishing they could … turn into Episcopalians."
For Uhry, Joe is the conscience of the play, a wake-up call for Jews who have turned Southern anti-Semitism on themselves and each other.
"It’s just like my childhood community, where we felt so negative about being Jewish," he said. "We should have tried to hold onto our heritage, but we tried to run away from it, which was like pretending you don’t have a lame leg. For years, I felt ashamed of being Jewish. I regarded myself as a Southerner first."
These days Uhry — dubbed "Atlanta’s Jewish soul poet" by one scholar — has a different reputation. His "Ballyhoo," along with his Pulitzer Prize winning play, "Driving Miss Daisy," has helped inspire an emerging body of work on Southern Jewry, including the documentaries "Shalom Y’all" and "Delta Jews."
Uhry "completely gets the nuances of Southern society and Southern Jews," said Warner Shook [see sidebar], who is directing "Ballyhoo" at South Coast Repertory.
Uhry has deep roots in the deep South. His father’s family dates to pre-Revolutionary War New Orleans; his maternal great-grandmother arrived in Atlanta as a baby around 1848.
His great-uncle owned the pencil factory that employed Leo Frank, the Jew lynched after being falsely accused of raping and killing a 13-year-old subordinate in 1913. "If anybody mentioned Frank when I was a kid, the older generation would just get up and walk out of the room," Uhry said. "They thought that since Frank’s wife was a German Jew, he’d be given special treatment. The big shock was that to all those country Southern people, German Jews were just ‘dirty Jews’ like everyone else. On top of what happened to that poor man, to have that social distinction rubbed in their faces was just too much."
The social distinction was also made clear when Uhry’s sister was asked to leave the restricted Venetian Club pool, an incident he describes in "Ballyhoo."
No wonder he played down his heritage until he arrived at Brown University and befriended a Jewish classmate, Robert Waldman, with whom he later collaborated on musicals.
"I started going to his seders and seeing the family traditions, which I liked a lot," Uhry said. "I gradually started to realize what I had been missing, and that there was a hole where the Judaism should be. I wanted to address that, somehow, as a writer."
He did so in three plays that have become his trilogy on Southern Jewry. "Driving Miss Daisy" (1988) was inspired by the relationship between his crotchety Jewish grandmother and her black chauffeur.
Ballyhoo began when the Atlanta cultural Olympiad commissioned Uhry to write a play for the 1996 Olympics.
"It occurred to me that the last time Atlanta was in the international spotlight was when ‘Gone With the Wind’ premiered there in 1939," he said of his inspiration. "I knew that Hitler was invading Poland at the same time, and I thought that would be the perfect milieu to talk about Southern anti-Semitism."
When Broadway director Harold Prince wondered why "Ballyhoo’s" characters rushed headlong to assimilate, Uhry told him about the Leo Frank case.
"Harold put his glasses on top of his head, stood up and said, ‘That’s a musical,’" he recalled. The result was "Parade," for which Uhry won a Tony Award in 1999.
His new play, "Edgardo Mine," is based on the true story of an Italian Jewish boy who was baptized and forcibly removed from his parents in the late 1850s.
Although "Mine" is set a continent away from "Ballyhoo," Uhry sees a connection.
"My wife says all my plays are about Jews who want to become Christian," he said.
Uhry, who now hosts an annual seder, is no longer in that category. "Writing plays like ‘Ballyhoo’ has helped me resolve my issues," he said. "I used to say I was Southern first, American second and Jewish a far third. Now I’m an American, Southern Jew."
"Ballyhoo" plays Sept. 5-Oct. 5 at South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. For tickets ($27-$55), call (714) 708-5555.
7 Days In Arts
Clowning Around With Cancer
After Stanford University graduate Jonna Tamases survived two different cancers in the 1980s, her life took an unexpected turn: She ran off to join the circus.
She recounts her experience in her quirky, one-woman show, "Jonna’s Body, Please Hold," now through Sept. 28 at the Odyssey Theatre.
Don’t expect a straightforward comic narrative like "God Said Ha!" Julia Sweeney’s 1998 monologue about her cervical cancer.
"The play is the story of my body as a hotel-like entity filled with these darling characters who are my body parts, personified," said the winsome Tamases, 37.
Drawing on her two years with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the ex-clown uses exaggerated physical comedy to characterize each limb.
"What I really hated about having cancer was watching my identity narrow down to just being sick," she said of her inspiration. "So I didn’t want to create a ‘woe is me,’ kind of play."
Although Tamases loved playacting while growing up in a culturally Jewish home in Palo Alto, the assumption was that a nice Jewish girl should "go to an Ivy League college, get a fancy-schmancy degree and become a professional."
She was planning to do just that as a Columbia University freshman when a routine X-ray revealed Hodgkin’s disease. A year later, other tests showed a large-cell lymphoma. Radiation treatments later caused her to develop a third type of cancer and to undergo a double mastectomy.
"We all know the cliché that life is short, but experiencing cancer really puts that knowledge in your body," she said.
Tamases scrapped the professional job route to return to her childhood love, playacting; eventually she applied to Barnum’s Clown College with a letter featuring her face superimposed on a daisy and the words, "pick me." One of 30 people selected among 2,000 hopefuls, she learned circus requisites such as stilt-walking and was hired in 1994.
Tamases, who brings her goofy, innocent clown persona to "Jonna’s Body," said "the pressure and the possibility of death is still with me. I’m a lot more anxious than other people. The flip side is that I’m acutely aware of the preciousness of life and how much I love it. And I want that joy to come out in the play."
$22.50-$25. 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. For tickets, call (310) 477-2055.
7 Days In Arts
7 Days In Arts
Here’s a real chochme for you. Head out to The Los Angeles Yiddish Culture Club’s end-of-the-season concert this evening. Jacob Lewin’s readings of stories by Sholem Aleichem will make you long for the old country, the Yiddish musical program will have you all farklempt and a little nosh will make you glad you spent some time with landsleit.7:30 p.m. Free (members), $4 (guests). 8339 W. Third St., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 275-8455.
You’ve gotta give it up for the man who gave us “The Surrey With the Fringe on Top.” Richard Rodgers wrote 40 Broadway musicals and more than 900 published songs in his lifetime. Come hear a “best of” sampling of his work at the University of Judaism’s “Richard Rodgers Centennial Concert and Celebration.” There’ll even be birthday cake following the show.The Writers Guild Theater. 3 p.m. $15. 135 S. Doheny Drive, Beverly Hills. For reservations, call (310) 335-0917.
James Ellroy and Bruce Wagner have made the seedy side of Los Angeles their business. Ellroy has authored many works about it including “The Cold Six Thousand” and “L.A. Confidential,” and Wagner’s novels include “I’m Losing You” and “I’ll Let You Go.” These two masters of L.A. noir have a sit-down on the subjects of corruption, politics and the dark side of our fine city courtesy of The Writers Bloc.
Reminding us that God speaks all languages, The Gerard Edery Ensemble recently released “Sing to the Eternal,” a compilation of spiritual Jewish songs and prayers from Morocco, Turkey, Yugoslavia, Spain and Portugal, sung in English, Hebrew, Ladino and Arabic. There are also original songs on the CD, composed by Edery and based on sacred texts.To order online or to hear samples, visit www.sefaradrecords.com.
“The Waverly Gallery” tells the story of a feisty Greenwich Village bohemian woman who develops Alzheimer’s disease, and the effect it has on her atheistic Jewish intellectual family. The play, written by Kenneth Lonergan, is in production at the Pasadena Playhouse under the direction of Bruno Kirby.Runs nightly except Mondays, through Aug. 11. Previews June 28-July 6. 8 p.m. (Tuesdays-Fridays), 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. (Saturdays), 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (Sundays). $29.50/$34.50 (previews and weeknights), $44.50 (general, weekends). 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena. For reservations, call (626) 356-7529.
Johnny’s Bar Mitzvah should have signified his passage into adulthood, but apparently that didn’t happen. Now ostensibly a grown man, he’s still struggling with being a grown-up. Unfortunately for him, his long-suffering, recently pregnant girlfriend isn’t putting up with it much longer. Hence the title of Neil Landau’s comedy/drama, “Johnny on the Spot,” Having just lost his insurance job, Johnny is visited by the dead policy holders of his past, present and future. They, along with Johnny’s girlfriend and Jewish mother, are gonna do their darndest to straighten him out.Runs through July 21. 7:30 p.m. $8 (general), $6 (members), $7 (seniors and students). Lloyd E. Rigler Theatre at the Egyptian, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. For more information, visitwww.egyptiantheatre.com.
Artist David Aronson began his sculpture entitled “Prophet II” long before the events of Sept. 11 deepened its impact and significance. Its physical size is larger than his sculptures tend to be, only adding to the piece’s affecting presence. “Prophet II” and another sculpture called “Singer II,” are on display at galerie yoramgil through July 21, as are his newest encaustic paintings.10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. (Thursdays-Saturdays), 11 a.m.-4 p.m. (Sundays), 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (Tuesdays and Wednesdays), closed Mondays. 319 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills. For more information, call (310) 275-8130.
Travel through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind….Your next stop, the “Twilight Zone” — the play, that is. Written by Rod Serling, the live stage production of two “Twilight Zone” episodes, “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” and “The Odyssey of Flight 33” plays at El Portal Center’s Circle Theatre at 11 p.m.(Fridays and Saturdays), 2 p.m. (Sundays). The Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood. For reservations, call (323) 856-4200.
7 Days In The Arts
7 Days In Arts
Isaac Stern’s life has been well-documented. But there are interviews and pictures you haven’t seen. The America-Israel Cultural Foundation, Los Angeles Chapter is hosting "Remembering Isaac," a film retrospective with never-before-seen footage covering his contributions to music and culture, today at 10:30 a.m. Luncheon at the Manhattan Wonton Company follows. $75. Laemmle Music Hall Theater, 9036 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. For more information, call (310) 476-5397.
Hope yesterday’s festival didn’t wear you out too much, ’cause here’s another one you shouldn’t miss. The Venice Art Walk is today, and there’s lots you’ll want to see and buy, from contemporary art to other "steals and deals." There are two auctions as well as studio tours, exhibitions and a food fair. Proceeds benefit the Venice Family Clinic. 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (Some events also on Friday and Saturday). For event prices and locations, call (310) 392-9255 or visit www.venicefamilyclinic.org.
Never underestimate a Jewish mama’s hold on her son. Hank Greenberg accepted an offer to play for the Detroit Tigers when the team’s recruiter attended Shabbat dinner at the Greenberg residence and praised Greenberg’s mother’s gefilte fish. This story is just a portion of one of 16 vignettes about famous Jewish personalities compiled on Florence Markoff’s audio collection, "Famous Jewish Portraits in Sound." Other people featured include Jonas Salk, Golda Meir and Itzhak Perlman. $21.50 (audiocassette), $25 (CD). For more information, visit www.bookmarkproductions.org.
The klezmer revival is in full swing, if you’ll pardon the pun, with three new albums that will have connoisseurs reaffirming their faith in the mighty accordion. April 30 marked Legacy Recordings’ release of "Tanz!," ($11.98) "Abe Schwartz: The Klezmer King" ($11.98) and "From Avenue A to the Great White Way: Yiddish and American Popular Songs 1914-1950" ($19.98). Believers will also be happy to know that all three have been digitally remastered. Can I get an amen? To buy them today, visit www.legacyrecordings.com/klezmermusic.
Enrico Donati’s art is inspired by myth and by the stuff of life: mandrakes, fossils and the dust from vacuum bags. In the early years of his career, he joined a New York community of expatriate Surrealist artists displaced by World War II, including André Breton, Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst, who embraced his works. His 1966-1973 "Antimagnetic Series" is on display at galerie yoramgil through June 10. 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (Tuesday-Saturday ), 11 a.m.-4 p.m. (Sunday). 319 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills. For more information, call (310) 275-8130.
Bernie Berman is a retired Jewish widower who lives alone. His kids don’t visit often, but he does get regular visits by the pretty pre-med student he’s hired to dance for him. Thus begins the tale of family, loneliness, aging, religion and most of the other biggies, in Martin Horsey’s "L’Chaim (To Life)." The play covers all the bases in a lighthearted and affecting manner, and runs through June 23. 8 p.m. (Thursdays through Saturdays), 2 p.m. (Sundays). $20 (Thursdays), $25 (Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays). Senior, student and group discounts available upon request. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles. For reservations, call (310) 477-2055.
Alice Meyerlink, a Jewish girl in 1976, and her friend blame their misfortunes on men and seek vengeance on the most available target — the pizza delivery guy. That’s the premise for Darlene Craviotto’s play, "Pizza Man." But men need not fear this comedy because the story has a positive humanistic message. Runs through May 26 at the Actor’s Workout Studio in the NoHo Theater District. 8 p.m. (Fridays and Saturdays), 2 p.m. (Sundays). $11. 4735 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. For reservations, call (818) 506-3903.
7 Days In Arts
I’m too sexy for my housework
I’m too sexy for my housework
Lisa Ann Orkin was a happy — if incompetent — Jewish housewife for 20 years. That is, until her husband suffered a midlife crisis and split a year ago.
The result is “Housewife in Blue!!!”, Orkin’s scathingly funny account of the most unfunny months of her life, now at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks.
At the beginning of her new musical comedy, the Comedy Store veteran is lounging in a slip on a fuzzy pink ironing board singing, “I’m a sexy housewife. I’m wearing Saran Wrap. Scooping up dog cr–. With my high heels ooonnnn.”
In another sequence, she reads the e-mail her husband sent announcing he was leaving the marriage. In another, she recounts how she feverishly labored to crack his AOL password (it turned out to be “password”) and discovered he had a mistress. The low point — recounted in a ditty called “Xmas Opera” — was the time Orkin confronted hubby at his love nest and he called the cops.
The 38-year-old comic has made a career of spoofing marital sex, her bad housekeeping, her interfaith marriage and growing up Jewish in a Catholic neighborhood. (“My friend Michelle had a plant called a Wandering Jew. She named it Lisa,” Orkin quips.)
Creating the play — a monologue with songs — has been cathartic for Orkin. “The only way I’ve been able to get through this is to spit it out, write it out,” she says. “I’ve become more OK with not being married.”
In the play, Orkin’s bubbie advises her to “take advantage and be a slut.” But Orkin doesn’t think so. “I haven’t dated since high school,” she told the Journal. “I am so not ready to be dating.”
For tickets, call (818) 841-6699. — By Naomi Pfefferman
Knesset panel to ban @’$%!
The Israeli Knesset’s Ethics Committee plans to distribute a list of banned words in an effort to improve the parliament’s typically overheated atmosphere, according to the Israeli daily Ma’ariv.
On the list are such words as “Nazi,” “idiot” and “monster” — as well as more piquant terms like “swamp fly,” “well-poisoner” and “zero of zeros.” — Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Homeboys on Home Plate
When Heidi Joyce thinks Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she thinks comedy. It’s worked for her before in an effort to combat domestic abuse, and it works again in her new play, "Friends and Enemies."
Best known for her "Stand Up Against Domestic Violence" comedy fundraisers, Joyce opens her first full-length play this week, which runs through July 29 at North Hollywood’s Bitter Truth Playhouse.
Joyce wrote and directed "Friends and Enemies," the story of two 13-year-olds rooming together on a cultural exchange program. Both David, a Jewish boy from Cleveland, and Mahmoud, a Palestinian from Jordan, bring with them the prejudices of their parents. "Are you a terrorist?" asks David. "A Jew is a soldier with a gun," says Mahmoud.
The teens find they have more in common than inherited biases.
By the end of the first scene, David and Mahmoud are playing a video game together, crossing a line they’ve taped across their room. The play humorously tracks the boys over the next four summers. As the conflict in the Middle East grows, so, too, does their friendship as they bond over girls, family life and teenage rebellion.
Joyce wrote "Friends and Enemies" in 1992, and then set it aside as the peace process made it seem irrelevant. She brought it to the attention of colleagues as they worked on "Stand Up Against Domestic Violence" in May, as tensions in Israel escalated. Both projects are "connected to the cycle of violence," Joyce says, "a violence that gets into you before you really have a chance to know what you think."
Heidi Joyce feels that humor most effectively highlights the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as it did in her domestic-abuse project. "There’s so much pathos and tragedy and nowhere to go with that. Humor is where hope lies."
"Friends and Enemies" at the Bitter Truth Playhouse, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. Saturdays, 8 p.m. until July 29. For more information, call (818) 755-7900.
Goddess of ‘Shiksa’
Lovers and Others
Tuck Milligan as Man and Tracey Ellis as Woman in “Swan Song,” one of the short plays by Debbie Pearl in “Sex.”
Like the uneven romantic fortunes of a veteran dater, “Sex” plays like a series of disparate encounters that range from memorable to better-off-forgotten. Playwright Debbie Pearl first developed “Sex” as a series of exercises at the Interact Theater’s playwriting lab. While its subtitle promises “a ganglia of short plays,” some of these vignettes still seem like workshop pieces — interesting ideas insufficiently developed.
Pearl, who boasts an impressive list of singing credits, is also an established writer for television, and the latter talent cuts both ways for her here. She keeps things moving and is conversant with the pop maladies of our times: gender confusion, moral evasiveness, AIDS paranoia and retail snobbery, to name a few. On the other hand, she reaches quickly for the easy laugh, relying on cliches and the one-two-punchline rhythm of contemporary sitcoms in order to sustain our attention.
“Swan Song,” the first of the seven short plays on the bill, yields mixed results. It opens on a skittish, amusingly angst-ridden single woman (Tracey Ellis) who confides to the audience the abysmal lack of sexual prospects that have kept her alone for much of her “prime.” It’s an honest and sweetly funny monologue that she relates from a bed at center stage. The bed, we discover a few minutes later, belongs to a man (Tuck Milligan) she just met at a party and impulsively has decided to sleep with. When he enters, head bobbing with nervous enthusiasm, prattling about the plate of cookies he’s assembled in anticipation of a post-coital snack, the two end up sitting together awkwardly under the sheets, their mutual panic rising. Regrettably, an ongoing shtick about his fuss-budget neatness is played for more than its worth and a sudden confession that he may be homosexual seems contrived. These elements derail a highly promising beginning.
Greg Mullavey does his best with “Interrogation,” a ponderous, solo piece about a morally compromised cop. The solid talents of Gary Hollis and Karen Landry are ill-served by “The Teacher,” which focuses on the infidelities and desires of a square, middle-aged couple that never rise above stereotype. As the pubescent object of Hollis’ downfall, Linda Cardellini does a graceless turn as a one-dimensional Amy Fisher variation.
In what is really more of a comedy improv skit, Robin Riker and Joel Brooks hit some comic high notes in “Barcalounger.” Much to the audience’s enjoyment, they morph into different couples who are in the midst of pondering a department store easy-chair display. Brooks is good as an effete design maven aghast that his wife is seduced by the Barcalounger’s tacky comforts, and Riker’s feline beauty belies a strong talent for physical comedy.
By far the most tightly written, fully realized piece is the engaging “Making Love to Louise.” In it, three men and a woman wax rhapsodic about their respective love affairs with the singular woman of the title, whom we never meet. We do encounter a pompous mid-level novelist (Brooks), a geeky but gallant emergency room doctor (Chuck LaFont) and a swaggering auto mechanic (Tony Denison). Riker plays Louise’s current female lover, a prim straight arrow who finds herself blossoming under Louise’s unique spell. Although Brooks’ choice of an affected WASP-y accent proves an unnecessary distraction, all the performers hit the mark, especially Denison, who is both erotic and funny as “Vinnie,” an endearingly sheepish but magnetic male bimbo who explains that he’s “the kind of blue-collar guy that smart women like.”
With “Sex,” Pearl’s apparent aim is to explore the desires and vulnerabilities that propel people into risky, sometimes life-changing situations. While a few of the seven short plays come provocatively close, the rest have the feel of one-night stands — unsatisfying encounters that are forgotten the morning after.
“Sex” runs through June 22, Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Sun. at 7 p.m. At The MET Theatre, 1089 Oxford Ave., Hollywood. Tickets: $20. (213) 957-1152.
Search Jewish Journal