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"BAYNAKHT OYF'N ALTN MARK"
This review was written by L. Fogelman for the Yiddish Forward newspaper on January 18, 1935.
For Y.L. Peretz's twentieth-year yahrzeit, the Education Committee of the Arbeter Ring is presenting a special Peretz evening.
Naturally it was an evening dedicated to Peretz's literary personality, and to his creations. We listened to the content-rich lecture by Sh. Niger about Peretz; We heard four of Peretz's songs, sung by the trained singer Ruth Rennie, and two of Peretz's stories ("Dos shtreyml" and "Oyb nisht nokh hekher") in the lively reading by the actor Elihu Tenenholtz; but the center of the artistic program of the evening lied, you understand, in the production of a "fragment" of Peretz's "Night at the Old Market."
Here the well-known stage director, David Herman, through his offering, with the "Free Yiddish Folks-biene," gave a dramatic expression of Peretz's symbolic work.
It is a work that is connected to Peretz's creation twenty-five years ago; It has in it several characteristic features of that time in general, and especially of that period of Peretz's literary activity.
Symbolism was then the popular direction in literature and in theatre. Meterlink's spirit, however, has swept across the European stage and has also found partly an echo on the Yiddish stage.
No living people with blood and flesh were shown on stage, just abstract fantastic figures that need to embody only certain ideas -- not any realistic types. Not any people from the real reality, only symbols that convey his heavy pessimism, his tragic outlook on life.
Incidentally, about Andreyev's symbolism,
Tolstoy once expressed himself in a sharp way -- "He (Andreyev)
scares me, but I do not scare" ...
And to a certain extent, this same phrase can be applied to Peretz's "Night at the Old Market." Fantastic crazy characters run through our eyes -- a badkhan (jester), a clown, a drunkard, a wanderer, a lamplighter, a wounded one, a prostitute; and they are all only symbols that is needed to throw a fright into the spectator.
And the stage director Herman has done everything that is possible to strengthen the fear. He has made the stage pitch-dark; he cast out all the persons on the stage as spirits. He has their artificial speech accompanied by artificial voices with special lighting effects; and the "whole market" looks to him like a homeless shrine, where the heroes of that world huddle and huddle in the middle of a deserted wilderness.
It seems we had to tremble with fear here; however, as Tolstoy said, we were just not scared. Instead this was only unwelcome, and you will excuse me a little boring. And boredom is then a great sin of a production.
Here is not to blame, it seems, the stage direction of anything else, not the stage direction alone: On the contrary, here David Herman has, knowingly, inserted a lot of energy, fantasy and loyalty to Peretz's [work]; but the fault lies mainly in the obsolete, somewhat naive symbolism of that time.
True, there were also some signs of stage direction: for example, darkness may be necessary for the obscure, symbolic characters; but when, due to the darkness we cannot see, not the interesting characters, not the beautiful decorations, giving it ... life, then the darkness no longer reaches its artistic distance.
So it is also with the artistic voices: when through the whining and the wild cries of the characters, one cannot hear Peretz's wise speech, words that, after all, do not reach the artistic distance of the whole production.
The best impression here was made by the moody music, which from time to time enters into this "khoyshekh mitsrayim" (darkness of Egypt, literally), which reigned on the stage.
To tell the truth, I strongly doubt whether Peretz has become a better, kinder and more understanding person to the public through this current performance. "The future romantic" as Niger has called Peretz in his lecture, here has sounded like a distant, strange past.
Is Peretz so far from us? Is he a voice of the past, and not a call for the coming generations, not an echo of future music? ...
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