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The Bronx Art Theatre
2131 Boston Road, Bronx, NY
This production opened on September 21, 1935.

 

"ALL IN A LIFETIME"
(In lebn treft zikh ales)

by Harry Kalmanowitz, music by Philip Laskowsky

 

This review, written by D. Kaplan, first appeared in the Yiddish Forward newspaper on October 13, 1935.


"We live in a time of a difficult crisis that has brought disasters to musical houses, created tragedies, and there were tragedies in tens of thousands of homes. How does the theatre react to this? I speak now about Yiddish theatre. It reflects on these tragedies and dramas and the everyday problems that have arisen during the crisis in masses, masses of families, in the relationships between husband and wife, between parents and children, between friends and relatives et al.

I am now going, as the theatre season has opened, and searching, wanting to see, how the Yiddish stage treated these tragedies and problems. It was in one theatre, in a second, a third -- all the main theatres -- and have I seen it?

Outmoded ideas and ideas from generations back, Hasidim with beards and sidelocks, shtreimlakh and zupetses, minhagim, abergloybens and events from a former time in the old country, perhaps hundreds of years back. But what about today, the bitter days here in America? Do few dramas, tragedies and comedies take place in thousands of homes? Are the playwrights and theatre managers entirely deaf and blind to this? Have they, perhaps, become so fearful for the bitter reality , that they stick their head behind their shtreimlakh and zupetses from antiquity? Going from theatre to theatre I searched. I finally stumbled upon one play about our present life in America. There may be more such plays, I have not seen them all yet. But do you know where this play is being shown? In a small theatre almost in the corner of the Bronx, the "Bronx Art Theatre," by the last station (180th Street Station) of the subway, by the Bronx Park. And the author is the well-known playwright H. Kalmanowitz, whom the so to speak, patented literary playwrights call a "melodrama writer." It would hurt them, however, when they learn from Kalmanowitz's world is full of old-fashioned antiquity, which is now of very little interest to the unemployed and the impoverished little businessman.

Kalmanowitz has a sense for reality. His subjects are always of life, of real-world life, no matter how he works out the subjects -- better, worse, or even in a melodramatic way. He holds a finger on the pulse of life, he looks at every new publication and how this affects the relationships and coexistence of people, and he seeks, in his manner and according to his powers, to prove it on stage.

The current play, "All in a Lifetime," which he calls a "comedy-drama," is also of the same kind. This is a picture of the sad changes that the crisis has created in many families, and the relationships between members of a family, and between one family and a second. One could certainly create a much better thing from the same material, and with less interiority, but in general it is a very good and realistic picture of our present day.

And the acting in the play is also entirely good. Although every participant in the production plays with taste, with artistic understanding, and with the necessary warmth. It is best exemplified by Rose Goldberg, because she has a difficult role -- a thankless role of a bad woman, a wicked person. Actors, top stars, usually hate to play such roles, in which one can not win any sympathy in public. Mrs. Goldberg deals with this role in a very nice way. Let us briefly brief you on the content.

Samuel Shapiro, a rich manufacturer, is by nature a good, soft human being. His wife, Bella, is made from a tougher material -- a strong character, and a bad person. Motl is henpecked by his wife. She has the opinion about everything, that Motl wants to borrow a few hundred dollars from his brother Feivel, who once brought him over to America and helped him out a good deal, but Bella does not tolerate it. She also does not tolerate the match between her son Julius and Feivel's daughter Rachel, because her son is studying to become a doctor, and Rachel is more than a simple girl. There is a falling out between the two brothers.

This was in 1928, still in the good prosperous years. A couple of years later we saw an entire other picture. The crisis is coming. Samuel Shapiro is a manufacturer and must go look for a job. At home poverty whistles. Motl looks awful from his trouble and despair. His wife, Bella, the malicious woman, gives him the world to see, and he is not able to find any jobs, so she drives him away from home. His brother, Feivel, forgets the old wrongdoing and deals fine with him, like a true brother. But Motl suddenly disappears.

The children are forced to make a living. The boy sells Eskimo Pies on the street. The eldest must leave his studies and seek an income. He becomes a partner with the wet-wash laundry business. Feivel's wife, his aunt, assigns him to customers. He begins to enter Feivel's house again, and the old love with Rachel lives on.

The only brother sends in a letter to a newspaper and invites the father, if he will read it, that he should come to see him. He was the father's darling. The mother comes, but not to his wife, but to his brother Feivel. He wants his wife and the other children not to see him -- only this one. Motl has for the time tried to fit in, as it is not --- in a cleaning store somewhere in a country town. He takes the good Feivel and silently brings Motl's wife and children and makes peace between them. The morality is unchallenged. When you are not wasted in money and satisfied with what you are doing, you have more satisfaction, happiness and friendship.

There are several fine and good scenes, and a couple of bad ones. All in all it is a fine production. The role of the bad Bella is played by Rose Goldberg, and it can be said that entirely fine and pleasantly played was Nathan Goldberg as Motl Shapiro. He is much better, and is natural, in the first two acts, as in the third.

Playing very well is Anna Hollander as the young youth Hymie, the Shapiro's youngest son. She presents herself as an American student and, without exaggeration, does not overdo it.

Also playing well is Moshe Dorf as Simkha Ber, Bella's father. And entirely satisfactorily plays the other: Isidore Hollander, as Feivel, Motel's brother; Janet Ringler, as Golde, his wife; Tania Poland, as Rachel; Janet Deutschman as Frances; Ben Basenko as Julius; Abe Gross as Ben Libkin. How do most people deal with such roles on stage and especially when a woman has to play a male role?

The lyrics were written by Joseph Bank. The music is from Philip Laskowsky.

 

 

 

 

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