Museum of the Yiddish Theatre


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The McKinley Square Theatre
1319 Boston Road, Bronx, NY
This production opened on February 22, 1939.


(Shall a Woman Forgive?)

by Isidore Friedman and Israel Rosenberg, music by Joseph Rumshinsky



The following review, written by D. Kaplan for the Yiddish Forward newspaper, was first published on February 22, 1939. Here is the English translation:

In the McKinley Square Theatre in the Bronx, there is now a play, "Shall a Woman Forgive?," which is a mixture of an important lebensbild (life portrait) and melodramatic fireworks. It consists of two parts. One part, the larger, perhaps entirely three-quarters of the play, contains a fine, real portrait, which touches on an everyday point of family life of a husband and wife, and is usually quite smoothly worked out. But this image ends with crisp, cheap tricks.

The subject is far from new -- the infidelity of a man to his loving wife. But here the emphasis is placed on another point, on whether the wife should forgive her husband for his infidelity. And just as in this play, the woman is stubborn and does not want to forgive the man, and the real family tragedy comes out.

This woman, Sonia Feldman, lived happily for fifteen years with her husband, Nathan, a furniture manufacturer, and was so sure of his fineness, fidelity and love for her, and for their child, a thirteen-year-old girl, that she had no suspicion of his infidelity to her. But behind her back he forged a love, and with that girl, a real commodity, which is not the Haggadah, but only the kneidlakh -- Nathan's money.

Sonia learns about this, and it raises suspicion. The Beit HaMikdash of her heart, of her whole life, has been destroyed. She does not want to know any more about her husband. He's still good and kind to him, and he begs her to forgive him, that he has made a fool of himself; but words do not help ... She leaves for Reno and divorces her husband.

But when she comes back and sees the teary face of her daughter, who longs for his father and feels very depressed, she feels remorse. She calls up Nathan and tells him that she wants to start a life with him anew: But ... Nathan has already married his sweetheart that morning.

Now begins a series of troubles. Trouble with Sonia, with her daughter, and trouble with Nathan: He does not live happily with his second, playful wife, and -- also troubles occur with the structure of the play.

Sonia's daughter Evelyn, longs for her father. She wants to see him once again. She writes a letter to him, but he doesn't receive the letter: his wife takes them. When Evelyn finishes school, she wants her father to come to her graduation party. Sonia bends and forces Nathan to call. She does not meet him at home, and a sharp conversation ensues between her and his wife, Jean, with whom Sonia becomes so upset that she loses control of herself and grabs Jean by the neck and strangles her so strongly that Jean falls unconscious.

Sonia thinks that she has murdered Jean. She runs away and surrenders to the police. It becomes certain on stage that Jean is not dead. She gets up and screams for help. But here comes a former lover of hers, whom she had heartily rejected; he is moved by a sense and seeks revenge. This sweetheart is now facing death.

Sonia is sentenced to twenty years in prison, but in two years Jean's lover goes to the police and reveals that he killed Jean. Sonia goes free. Nathan, among others, comes to meet her. He worked all the time with all his might, hiring lawyers to free Sonia. From his second wife he had previously learned of his second wife's actions and wanted to get rid of her. Sonia thanks Nathan and embraces him, declaring that a woman should be able to marry her husband if he is ever banished once after betraying her.

In the production there is a second pair, just the opposite in their relationship as Sonia and her husband. Sonia's brother married a flapper, who keeps opening up and betraying him. Yet he lets himself become overwhelmed, and one lives as it is, sometimes with a lot of heartbreak, sometimes with a little joy and happiness. This pair, which is shown in contrast to Sonia and Nathan, is far from as real as the pair of Sonia and Nathan. But these roles are played by Menasha Skulnik and Tillie Rabinowitz, who amuse the whole audience with what they should not be playing. Menasha Skulnik is always Menasha Skulnik, whether in the Bronx or on Second Avenue. It does not matter what role you give him. On stage he will always give you the sympathetic wretch with the grace of his heartfelt jokes, from which the audience can not laugh enough.

Tillie Rabinowitz's gift is of the other sort. She is more adapted to simple, realistic roles. As the flapper wife she is not the most successful, but she is still good. I cannot remember her once being bad.

Quite good in their acting are Charlotte Goldstein and Irving Honigman as Sonia and Nathan Feldman. Sympathetic are Isidore Friedman and Polly Hoffman as Sonia's parents. Vera Rosanka, as a servant girl, a non-Jew, takes to the audience with her songs, Yiddish and Russian.

Also participating: Julia Shlifko, Gertie Bulman, Leib Gold, Sara Skulnik, Jacob Wexler, Frank Schechter, M. Wilensky and Charles Cohan.





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