Museum of the Yiddish Theatre


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The National Theatre
111-117 East Houston Street, New York, NY
This play opened on October 25, 1929.


(The Only Night)

by Abraham Blum, music by Alexander Olshanetsky



This production was reviewed by L. Fogelman for the October 25, 1929 edition of the Yiddish Forward newspaper. Here is the English translation:

Rarely does one come out to see such a lovely and heartfelt Yiddish operetta as "The Only Night," which now is appearing at the National Theatre. The author of the operetta, Abraham Blum, has given it a rich, dramatic content. Olshanetsky has given very beautiful content with his music. Krasnoff has created lively, graceful dances, and together they have created a successful union of drama, music and dance, which gives true pleasure.

In truth the dramatic content of the new play was not adapted only for an operetta, but for an opera: In it there is the seriousness, the solemnity, and the power of an opera. Olshanetsky understood it, and he added to his music side-by-side with light, playful melodies, as well as very serious and solemn melodies.

The content of the new operetta is built on that sad historical time when they used to seize in small Jewish children in Russia, take them away from their parents and give them away to become soldiers. This was sixty or seventy years ago, when Tsar Nicholas I reigned.

Here they took the only son of the pious Jew, R' Mendeli Tomashover, Chaim'l. But instead the barracks fell into the hands of a general whom the young boy greatly admired. Under the general he excelled like his own son, and in time he became a famous general, Vitalin, a military hero, who was successful all over Russia.

In the time of the war, Chaim'l's parents and their adopted orphan, Ester'l, together with other Jews, fell into the hands of the Cossacks. They were accused of espionage. But they were saved from torture and death by their unknown son, the young general Vitalin, who has a warm heart and a human, friendly relationship with the Jews, who also doesn't understand why he is so attracted to the Yiddish melodies and to the Jews in general.

He sees Esther and they fall in love with each other. But he is the groom of a colonel's daughter, who also loves him very much. And so a dramatic clash of love and jealousy ensues. There occur some moving scenes.


The ending is, it seems, an operetta ending: The secret is revealed that General Vitalin is R' Mendeli's prodigal son, and everything ends as it should.

The dramatic content has been given good material for more appropriate music and for the actors to play. Almost every person in the play has a special character and is of a special type: true, the people are only portrayed with some character features, but nevertheless every actor here has the opportunity to fulfill their type with the assistance of his own power of performance, from his own fantasy. And some of the actors are indeed successful.

Abraham Teitelbaum has been given the lively type of a highly religious Jew, R' Mendeli Tomashover. Both with his makeup, as well as with his acting, he makes a good impression. He is not the usual operetta Jew, but a type portrayed with Jewish features.

Consistent also was Mrs. Bettie Jacobs, who gave a touching type of a deep-suffering mother. She sings the song, "Shpilt-zhe mir, khlizmrim'lakh" with great appeal.

Of the young role players, Bella Mysell especially excels. She has artistically portrayed the type of Ester'l with delicate features that she conveys with the tenderness and modesty of the innocent Jewish girl whose heart is broken in the struggle between duty and love. Her singing is also impressive. Her voice sounds free and has good delivery during the touching moments of the drama.

Michal Michalesko makes a fine impression; but it has more of the feeling of a type of a young Russian general, of a military hero, rather than a Jew, and here it would not hurt to emphasize in his appearance his Jewish descent, because on it is built on the whole course of the operetta.

Less successful were the comic types of the operetta, but to a certain extent it is not very guilty by itself. A little lightness and playfulness is felt in the operetta; not the needed humor that would make the harsh mood of the drama lighter. Can't the humor of the whipping of the Jews be considered humorous, which is, to a certain extent, a bit appealing? This, after all, is a joke where one laughs through tears. Or the scenes between the village Jews and her son. This is nevertheless more burlesque humor than the true humor of such types and of actions. And the operetta just has a nice, humorous feel to it.

Thus Jacob Jacobs, Yetta Zwerling and Irving Jacobson play more burlesque, giving comic types. As always Jacobs has broken jokes on how the world stands. Zwerling has inserted into her acting her entire hot temperament, and exaggerates quite a bit; and Irving Jacobson also plays in a genuine burlesque manner.

More reserved and natural was the acting of Mae Schoenfeld, the comic role of Tsirl, the gabbai's daughter.

The role of the colonel was played not badly by Bennie Zeidman; the role of his wife was played by Sara Filler.

A good impression was made by Ella Ziebel in the role of the colonel's daughter. She has quite a pleasing voice and appearance. In a greater role she would be more capable to show her abilities. Here she doesn't have the opportunity for this.

Max Badin plays well in the role of the general who expelled the young Jewish boy. One feels an importance and warmth in his acting.

Also having roles were Beril Schechtman, Abe Gross, L. Himmelstein and Izidor Schuchat. The dances arranged by V. Krasnoff were successful. The settings for the play also were beautiful. Especially impressive was the hall in Moscow with the colonel in a house.

But a special compliment is due Olshanetsky for his heartfelt music. Several nigunim [religious melodies] were exceptional. The song, "When God is With Us," or the popular song, "Shpilt-zhe mir, Bli-zmrim'lakh" can be heard over and over.

Generally "The Only Night" is an operetta with a pure, interesting content, with pleasing music and good performances.





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