Museum of the Yiddish Theatre



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The Folksbiene Playhouse
Washington Irving High School, New York, NY
This production opened on February 10, 1935.

(Only a Doctor)

by Sholem Aleichem
review by B. ___ Bn, published on February 15, 1935.


 "Only a Doctor" by the deceased great Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem is a well-known one-acter. Not once has it been played in a small theatre, in a "miniature-evening." The one-acter was also played at the impressive "Sholem Aleichem evening", which last Sunday, February 10, was performed in the large auditorium of the "Washington Irving High School." This was one of the "writer evenings" that were so successfully organized by the National Education Committee of the Workmen's Circle. Around eight hundred people came to the Sholem Aleichem evening. Besides this one-acter, there also was performed an interesting program, but earlier -- before the "theatre number" of the evening.

It is being staged by the "Free Yiddish Folks-bine," a branch institution of the Workmen's Circle, which many times has given fine productions. Now one finds the "Free Yiddish Folks-bine" under the direction of the guest-director David Herman (he had directed Gottesfeld's "In-Laws" in the Folks Theatre). Participating this time are only six actors and actresses from the "Folks-Bine," because the one-acter is a small production with less participants. (The stage technique is by B. Rosenzweig.)

The story of Sholem Aleichem's one-acter is well known. It is presented as rich Jewish people ("alrightniks" of the old country), who struggle around to find a groom for their single daughter, Verishka, a high school student. The mother wants a doctor, but the father wants a merchant. This girl herself wants "only a doctor," and her brother, Abram, also a high school student, also screams, "Only a doctor".  There is a war in the house; -- "A doctor!", "A merchant!" -- "Only a doctor!". A matchmaker arrives and turns to and fro: "A doctor! "A merchant!" -- until he falls upon a plan. He will give them both -- a merchant-doctor! ... Yes, there is a maid in the house nearby who also wants a husband, and also she wouldn't call a doctor ...

It happens a little in the house. The title point is the matchmaker (played by Ely Arnou). Everything revolves around him, and they battle. The father (played by M. Predmest), is beside himself. He wants a merchant; the modern women (played by Nadia Zaner), wants "only a doctor"; the matchmaker throws himself to and fro. The high school student (played by Lillian Blum) smiles, turns red, but she also wants a doctor; and her brother, the high school student (played by Joshua Zeldis) continues this with her.

It is clear that the stage director, David Herman, has intended to bring out the matter more as an comic exaggeration, rather than a humorous one. This may not be a bad idea. But to play a caricature and stay in the romance of a caricature, sustained and not oversalted, is more difficult than to play a comedy, a realistic humoresque, a house-situation. Contributors to the "Free Yiddish Folks-bine" who has manifested various talents, have also done the best according to their opportunities, but it is obvious that the explanation of the comic exaggeration was too difficult for them to bring out. The maid was not bad at all (Bronia Natan), and the bride (Lillian Blum). M. Predmest has held himself up -- here as a true father, and there -- as a caricatured father ... so also the "Madam" (Nadia Zaner), but they are good at following the men of the play. And Joshua Zeldis did his best to bring out the "stuck" high school student.

Besides the one-acter, the audience in the same evening also had a "theatre number," which was strongly received. This was the performance of the actor Elihu Tenenholz. He forgot two things from Sholem Aleichem creations, and both of them he not only imagined, but acted out, playing it out in a very talented way.

The well-known singer Meyer Steinwortzel was well accepted with his singing of folk songs. The poet B.J. Bialostotzky, who contributes to the "Forward," held a short lecture about "Sholem Aleichem types." F. Epstein was the chairman of the evening.





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