Museum of the Yiddish Theatre


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The Prospect Theatre
851 Prospect Avenue, Bronx, NY
This production opened on October 5, 1929

(The Big Sister)

by Meyer Schwartz, music by Philip Laskowsky


The following review, written by Hillel Rogoff, was first printed in the Yiddish Forward newspaper on October 18, 1929. Here it is:

The "Big Sister" is a play that the better theatre audience can see coming to fruition. The conversations are interesting and often clever and witty. The characters are positioned for depth of living people. The "plot" develops naturally. The drama is virtually entirely free of melodramatic effects. Some of the shortcomings that are present in it can easily be overstated.

In a house in Flatbush there lived a family of three sisters and one brother. The older sister Miriam is now thirty-four years old. She is the head of the house, the main earner, the parents passed away when the children were still young, and Miriam attracted them all. Twelve years earlier, before the play begins, Miriam had a romance that left her with a broken heart. Since then she does not want to hear of any matchmaking. She is a precocious, old maid.

The two young girls are of an entirely other sort than Miriam. The middle one, Bessie, twenty-four years old, thinks only about one thing, finding a boy and getting married. The youngest, Goldie, also has one thing in mind, good times. She leads her life with her boss, a married man who carries around with her around in dance halls and cabarets and tells her that he will divorce his wife and marry her.

Into the household there comes a silly boy, Charlie Vaserfogel, who properly conducts himself with the family and would want to be with her, and for the "family" to reconcile. A little later a father brings a second boy, a bos plomber who seeks a nice girl to marry. He is the same age as Miriam.

The action revolves around the two boys and the girls in the home. Here there were both a comic and a dramatic situation. The more serious young man, the bos plomber, is in love with Miriam; she, however, still cannot free herself from her "loyalty" to her former lover. She is also worrying that her youngest sister is running around with the married man. She is looking for ways to "rescue" her sister and to prevent a public scandal. Comic situations are created through Bessie's hunt to find a husband, and Charlie Vaserfogel's infatuation with the "family." Bessie seeks to capture every young man who comes into the house, whether they are married or not, and Vaserfogel is ready to take any of the three sisters in order to join the family.

The entire play is slightly more of a comedy than a drama. However, there are a couple of melodramatic situations that appear to have been inserted intentionally in order to make the play "stronger." Here, for example, there is a scene in which it turns out that the married man, who wants to seduce the youngest sister, is the same who broke Miriam's heart twelve years earlier. There is also a scene here in which Miriam "teaches herself" in a proper performance, in order to save the good name of the same sister, Goldie. The author was able to deal with these situations very easily. The play would have benefited from this as a dramatic work. The writer, however, was clearly afraid that if the play had any melodramatic effects, the play would be too weak for a large audience.

What is most interesting in the play are the three types of girls who represent the three sisters. Each girl is quite another type, and quite an interesting type, and the author Meyer Schwartz has not badly painted each of them. The colors are admittedly a bit too dense, too much emphasis is placed on certain features in the character of the types, but in general each of them is a living person of a completely different kind than the others. This makes living together at home and their conflicts interesting and true.

The men types are not so successful. They are almost all portrayed according to the accepted recipe of the Yiddish melodrama. The play, however, is so built that the center of interest are the female characters.


The roles of the three sisters are performed by Rose Goldberg (Miriam), Ethel Dorf (Bessie), and Paula Klida (Goldie). The most important and the most difficult roles among the three belongs to Rose Goldberg, and she plays it with quite a bit of talent. Ethel Dorf as Bessie is a little too beautiful and clever. It is unbelievable that a girl with such an appearance should have to chase after boys, and that there should be no success in her pursuit.

Paula Klida in the role of Goldie is completely convincing.

Nathan Goldberg plays the decent, good-hearted bos plomber and makes the desired impression. The role of the comic Charlie Vaserfogel is a little too comical as performed by Isidor Meltzer.

Among the other actors who participated were: Abe Dorf, Morris Dorf, Annie Augenblick, Arthur Tracy, Katie Kaplan and Hymie Rappoport.





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