Museum of the Yiddish Theatre


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The Hopkinson Theatre
482 Hopkinson Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
This production opened 0n November 8, 1929

(Itzikl the Thief)

by Isidore Friedman


The Cast of Characters:



 This review was written for the Forward by L. Fogelman, and it appeared in the Forward on November 22, 1929.

The three-act comedy, "Itzikl Ganev (Itzikl the Thief)," by I. Friedman, which is playing now in the Hopkinson Theatre, is a beautiful story about today's Jewish life in America.

Mrs. Adela Silver, a rich widow, drives a young man from across the street in her car. She is a good, fine woman, with a noble heart. She take the young man into her home until he becomes healthy. For the time that he is in her home, a thirty-year-old love plan unfolds: the young man is in love with Mrs. Silver's young daughter, but Mrs. Silver is in love alone with the handsome, young man. It leads, of course, to a sorrowful and problematic situation. The author, however, plans everything else, and the ending is a good one, a happy one.

The transferred young man is an underworld fellow with the name "Itzikl ganev (Itzikl the Thief)." And the accident was a bluff, a "frame-up," to get some of the rich widow's money. At Mrs. Silver's house, of course, no one knows about this. Itzikl is not only a thief but also a good actor: He represents himself as a fine person, a highly oriented young man, and he manages to win the sympathy and even the love of Mrs. Silver and her daughter.

At the same time, a remarkable change occurs in Itzikl's soul. He falls in love with the younger, naive-pure young girl, Silvie, Mrs. Silver's daughter. A new feeling captures his hart like a sacred flame, and he becomes another man. He decides to take a detour, and when his friends come to him and demand that he should do the "job" quickly and steal the precious jewelry from Mrs. Silver's safe. When they had made an agreement with him, he promised to do it. Mrs. Silver, though, is so good to him, so fine, that he doesn't have the heart to act humiliatingly towards her. He will not allow them to do evil. He will protect her.

Itzikl had a previous love, a real, underworld commodity. She loved Itzikl, and she with her feminine instinct, she immediately tasted the change that had taken place in him. She said to him openly that due to the innocent face of Mrs. Silver's daughter, he betrays his friends. She's not one of those lemurs [?] who spits in her face, and Itzikl has a difficult struggle with her.

The main struggle, however, comes between Mrs. Silver and her daughter. They are both in love with the handsome, lively young man. The mother, who is a widow, yearns for a little happiness from love. She makes him general manager of her factory, and she wants to marry him. The daughter, however, argues that she cannot live without him, and a struggle ensues between them, with tears, cries and groans.

Often coming to Mrs. Silver's house is an old admirer of hers, Solomon Stein, a fine, upstanding man, a gentleman, according to his manners and character. For years he has dreamed of his one-time happiness with her, and when she became a widow, he had hoped that his dream would be realized. Here the trouble subsided with Itzikl. As for a true friend, Mrs. Silver tells him the whole truth, that she is in love with Itzikl and wants to marry him. He expresses his opinion, that they are not a match: she is too old for him, but it is difficult to argue rationally when it comes to a loving heart.

Meanwhile, a new porridge is being cooked, and we find out who Itzikl is. Mrs. Silver has a son Morris, a well-to-do, young man. When Itzikl's underworld love, Lili, comes to visit Mrs. Silver at her home, she sees Morris and approaches him. She does business with him, and soon she falls for the young, light-hearted young man, who is going to steal the mother's diamond necklace and hand it over to her. Itzikl learns of this and stands by Morris and Lillian. They do not want to give in to good, and Itzikl tries to force it upon them. In the struggle, Lili slips the necklace into Itzikl's pocket, and here a detective suddenly arrives, searches and finds it with Itzikl. The detective tells Mrs. Silver that he has been searching for Itzikl for a long time, because he is the leader of a band of thieves.

Itzikl is arrested. Meanwhile Mrs. Silver is told the truth, that Morris was the one who stole the pearls -- Itzikl didn't do it. He does not want to break her heart, he says that she would not endure it, he says. It is dark in the house at the moment. Both the mother that the daughter complain. Their idol, their god, has fallen down and broken.

But as far as the trial is concerned, the whole truth has been known from Morris. That said, Itzikl is quite a hero, a martyr. One Silvie continues to love him, and they already work to free him. Mrs. Silver hires the best lawyer, and they free Itzikl. But Mrs. Silver now does not want Itzikl for herself, but for her daughter. She has already decided to marry her old admirer.

*      *      *

As you see, here there have been condensed three dramatic themes into one play. And in addition to the above, several scenes are involved, like between the maid and her lover, and others. Some scenes therefore suffer from too much editing, and indeed in many important moments.

Jacob Rechtzeit has the main role as "Itzikl the Thief" and displays his talent and temperament. The role of Mrs. Silver is played by Rebecca Lash (in place of Rosetta Bialis), and she performs fine and with taste, without awkward exaggerations. Correct also was Itzhak Arco as Solomon Stein. Celia Pearson, as the underworld girl, was all right.

Also participating were: Seymour Rechtzeit and Bessie Budanov, as Mrs. Silver's child; Deborah Weissman, as the maid; Fishl Singer, as her lover; Morris Weissman, as Barney Ehrlich, Itzikl's blumrshter father, and Ben-Zion Schoenfeld, as Mr. Black, the detective.



Photo of the Hopkinson Theatre courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives.

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