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The Wedding Dance

by Lazar Fogelman
from the Forverts of Friday, November 19, 1937

Libretto by Isidor Friedman, music by Ilia Trilling
Directed by Herman Yablokoff

Herman Yablokoff is now staging in the National Theatre Isidor Friedman's new play, "The Wedding Dance," a play that will be performed in the middle of the week, as a link to the operetta, "Give Me Back My Heart," which will then be played Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

According to the content and general news of the new production, it is a funny play that has been transformed into a funny operetta, thanks to Ilia Trilling's musical numbers.

The name, "Wedding Dance," here is not characteristic of the play; the correct name should be "Shmaye from Kolomaye," because a Shmaye from Kolomaye is the main figure and the weakness of the entire comedy.

The comic role of Shmaye is played by Leon Fuchs, and he is already enough to make the production amusing and pleasant.

Leo Fuchs Yetta Zwerling Charlie Cohan  Esta Salzman Max Kletter
Isidor Goldstein Anna Appel Sam Gertler Mirele Gruber Bella Meisel

Fuchs is one of the genuinely truly talented comics who now appears on the American Yiddish stage. And he is among the number of talented comics who occupy a special place, because he has his own way of playing and demonstrates his uniquely personal charm that illuminates his humor.

Fuchs has something graceful and worldly in him, even when he plays uncomfortable tricks from the old world. He has a certain glance and refinement in his acting, even when he makes himself look foolish at times on the stage, even when he only sneers and makes frivolous jokes. He has, of course, a keen sense of rhythm in his playing, in imitation.

And here he shows all these virtues in full measure in his current role of Shmaye of Kolomea.

Actually Shmaye is not a type at all. The author has given this main hero, like most of the people of the comedy, almost no character. But Fuchs fills the balloon that was given to him with his own air, with the air of his talent.

Itzhak Friedman has made Shmaye an ordinary shlumiel, an idler, who lives off relief and considers conducting a search for a bride. With the help of a matchmaker Shmaye finally marries, and just with a young and beautiful young girl; but as often happens with shlumiels, his wife is as soft on him as on a pest. Even more so, that she has someone on the side with whom she had chosen to marry before she got married through a misunderstanding, to Shmaye.

This proves, in short, that in his playing, Fuchs' humor lies not so much in jokes, in jests, than in situations [and] in tone.

Here the comedy lies in the planning of the wedding and the bride, it is the planning that creates Shmaye's humor, and his rival in love, and in various scenes that uncoils out of the dramatic cluster.

Besides Shmaye's tragi-comical story with his young and indifferent wife, here there are a couple of similar comic episodes that are connected to other couples.

The author have introduced into his play three sisters: one a gussie [?], a clumsy, foolish girl; a second with the name of Rose, who is the main heroine of the drama and who later becomes through an error Shmaye's wife; and a third, Mary, who is shrewd, a lively American girl who can turn a guy's head.

The whole comedy revolves around the three sisters.

The eldest sister, the foolish girl, has her husband, a janitor, who is married because of her.

The couple are played by Yetta Zwerling and Charlie Cohan.

Charlie Cohan portrays the janitor with comical features. He speaks with a "goyishe" Yiddish, trying to live in a strange, Jewish world, but he nevertheless remains a stranger, even though he is a Jew and even becomes a pious Jew in his own goyishe [gentile] way.  His Jewishness and piety seem to be illogical. He remains the same goy as before.

The goyish Jew or the Jewish Jew is not any new type in the Yiddish operetta.

Zwerling plays here, as always, with a brazen energy that flies from you over the shores. She is rash, boisterous, and hasty, and often oversteps the mark. And she has her audience that flows from her.

The second comic pair, the younger sister Mary, the cute American girl with her husband Benny, an unlucky profiteer, is played entirely lively by Esta Salzman and Isidor Goldstein. She is very moving, sometimes too moving, and he is a pure prize-fighter, without a single feature other than that.

The role of Shmaye's younger wife, who is so cruel in her tone as another indifferent woman can be, is played by Bella Meisel with her constant restraint, modesty, and femininity. She also sings a few numbers in a pleasant way.

And as always, Anna Appel shines with her natural actions in the genuine motherly type, which she creates here.

Max Kletter plays the role of Shmaye’s competitor in love. He later turns out to be quite a racketeer, who extorts money from naive people through a special love racket. But until the end, you don't feel for Kletter, and you don't see him as a racketeer. On the contrary, he is thoroughly a sympathetic, romantic lover, and his racketeering comes to an end very unexpectedly, surprisingly, and therefore also not convincing for the audience.

Sam Gertler plays a strict father quite well, but here he is too serious and stiff for the light and frivolous texture of the comedy. It's a seriousness that hardly fits here.

The author himself performs in his play in the comic role of the matchmaker. His matchmaker, however, must appear comical, funnier than he is. The matchmaker type has enough humor to provide a lot of material for humor.

And almost at the end of the second act there appears on the stage Mirele Gruber in the role of a “vamp,” who participates in the love racket. Here she must “vamp” Shmaye. On the stage there breathes from Gruber a freshness and youth. Unfortunately here she has only a few minutes. She is cursed, and the audience is also cursed.

The general tone of the play for most participants is too loud.

Trilling’s music from the operetta is very pleasant to hear. Some of the musical numbers will steal into our memory for a long time.

For example, there is the melody that Fuchs sings together with the entire theatre audience. Also there is a pair of duet numbers that are sung by Bella Meisel with Max Kletter.

Of the scenes that were especially impressive, there is the evil dream of Shmaye. The scene, however, has to be done with darker light and more fantastic than it should be for a dream. After all, there are great opportunities for interesting acting …

Oscar Ostroff’s lyrics were entirely good, but his lyrics are more apropo in Yablokoff’s Saturday production, “Give Me Back My Heart,” than in the one today.

Michael Salzman’s sets are appropriate and consistent with the character and content of the operetta.

In general in “The Wedding Dance” is a cheerful, amusing production that evokes happy smiles in the theatre. It is not possible to shed any tears because there is no usual heart-wrenching melodrama. For light entertainment, the new operetta is perfect.


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