Museum of the Yiddish Theatre


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Lyric Theatre
16-18 Seigel Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
This production opened on September 17, 1937.

(An Hour Before the Wedding)

by Ben Zwi, music by Max Kletter


This review was written by Charles Rusianov for the Yiddish Forward newspaper, and it was first printed for the October 15, 1937 edition. Here it is:

In the Lyric Theatre they are now playing, "An Hour Before the Wedding." When the curtain begins to rise, the stage is set in the house of a Jewish family in Vienna. A husband with a nice beard argues with his wife, for he was about to have his daughter, his only daughter Mirele, marry Herman, the American student who came to study in Vienna and has fallen in love with Mirele. He wants that she should better marry Dr. Gilbert, also an American, and Herman's friend

But here enters Mirele. She recognized her father's sad face, that he is against the match with Herman, and she speaks out for him from her heart. She explains to him that it is such a pure, unblemished love, and she speaks so long, until her words find an echo in her father's heart, and he immediately runs away into the desert to bring the rabbi and the order of holiness. The mother leaves with the child, prepares the necessary food for the feast, and Mirele waits for the groom to enter. They embrace each other, swear to each other eternal fidelity, and then fall into a very intimate conversation from which we learn that the bride is already in other circumstances, and that she is expecting soon to become the mother of their child.

The audience in the theatre becomes restless. One feels as if the people are waiting impatiently for the father to return with the kedoshim as soon as possible, because God forbid the male companion withdraws from her.

Have fun scaring yourself. The groom has no intention of leaving the bride. The storm of the drama comes from another side -- from America!

Here's how it works: When the groom is standing in full dress and the bride in her white wedding dress with her parents by her side, waiting for the rabbi with the holy vessels, the house collapses with a storm, the father of the beloved bridegroom.

He did not come to lead his son to the canopy, as one might think, but to deprive him of the bride; to deprive him forever! He does not want his son to marry a rich man's daughter. He himself is rich, and he wants a rich bride for his son.

He does not heed the son's prayer: it does not help the bride's sobbing tears. His name is Mr. Hartman, and he remains hard as a rock. He is doing a very tedious job. Through an outburst, to deal with the mother, Mr. Hartman entices his son to a Vienna hotel, where two detectives "kidnap" him and take him away on a ship that is leaving for America. In desperation, unable to bear the separation of his beloved bride, he throws himself into the waves of the sea and drowns.

Mirele doesn't know that he is dead. Leaving "the fruit of your love" with her parents, she marries an American and soon travels to America, with the hope of being able to find the father of his child there.

The man whom she had married is a gangster, and the police from the entirety of America are chasing him. He covers her from head to toe with the most precious jewelry, which of course is stolen. He is terribly jealous of her ex-husband, and when Mirele brings down her child, a little boy, the man pushes him out of the house. Mirele wants to get away from home. Mirele wants to go away, together with her child, to go where her eyes will carry her, but she is suddenly arrested for having stolen jewelry, and they send her to prison. Dr. Gilbert, who remains a true friend although she has rejected his love, takes her child to raise.

In the future scenes Mirele is already a woman in an abyss. She sinks ever deeper and deeper, until she becomes an "opium fiend." She continues to live with her husband, the gangster, who strikes her with murderous blows and forces her to go and steal. He thinks that she steals for him. The truth, however, is that she commits all the thefts so that her son can study medicine.

Her son becomes a successful doctor. Her husband, the outcast, finds out about it, and he wants to extort money from the young doctor. The mother then comes to his office to warn him. There comes a scene where the son injects one of the mothers with opium. Dr. Gilbert then enters: He recognizes Mirele, and tells the young doctor who the sick, broken woman is. The son falls on her neck and cries out: "Mama, my dear mama!," and the curtain falls down, and the drama is ended.

As the reader can see, in the subject there isn't anything new. But who can complain to a playwright about such a thing? Where, in particular, are new subjects? It turns out, however, how one deals with the old subjects. In "An Hour Before the Wedding" the author has so overwhelmed us with subjects, that one must have that iron stomach to digest it. He took with the fuller hand, from right and left.

I did not submit a tenth of the content. It's a melodrama that can be turned into a dozen melodramas, and it's still going to be fun.

Playwrights usually seek to convey incredible events in their play. In "An Hour Before the Wedding," the author did not make the effort, even before, to make the actions come to mind.

In all the melodramas dramatists and actors chase (often with the consent of the public), after broadcasts and strong effects, while forgetting reason and logic. This could perhaps serve our author as a defense for the incredible things he has put in is his play. I cannot, however, like the monologues and dialogues, the so-called "phrases," which grills terribly in the ears.

The author of "An Hour Before the Wedding" has openly heard Jews say "jargon," and that "jargon" is a tongue that had no grammar. Therefore he has heard audiences say that Jews speak "jargon," so he composes three complete sentences, not counting with any rule full of "syntax," especially in the high "prose." There he had words, phrases whole, circling, and planted himself underfoot, not finding any suitable places to place himself as proper.

The lead role had Sadie in the stage, starting as Shoengold. She is almost a bride in a canopy dress and ends up as an old, broken woman. She plays too dramatically, beginning in the last act, with the morphine injection, and when she grabs and kisses all the objects found in her son's office. She did, however, rehearse the scene in the first act, when the bridegroom becomes "kidnapped." There you manage to overcome the sorrow and fear of your soul.

Chaim Tauber as Mirele's bridegroom, plays the role too stiffly and cold, although he made very hot love declarations. It gave the impression that he means nothing to her, Mirele. Perhaps he was to blame for too often looking down on the public ...

Misha Fiszon, as Mirele's father, has a small role, which he performs not badly.

George Gould as a gangster, has an ungrateful role because the author painted him as black as a chimney sweep, a one hundred percent "villain." He performs his role with a lot of "pep." He possesses quite a clear diction, and generally makes a fine stage appearance.

Sam Auerbach, as Dr. Gilbert, had at his disposal so much "prose," I do not know which actor I wish could prove it satisfactory [?]

The comic role was played by Sam Gerstenzang. His job was to make the public laugh, and one cannot say that he did not do it. Moreover, he did not strongly discourage any means of tickling the audience.

Nevertheless, one has seen that the actor possesses enough talent to amuse without burlesque tricks, with which he was employed. Anyway, his appearance was a pleasant change between the serious and sad parts of the drama.

Quite pleasantly performing their small roles were Janet Ringler as Misses "Moshe Frenmikh," Rosalyn Marcus as the maid, and Sara Gingold as a nurse.

Also participating in less important roles were Vera Zaslavska, M. Scherr, Fraydele Spector and Sam Gailing.






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