Museum of the Yiddish Theatre

   
 Brooklyn
 

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The Amphion Theatre

437 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
This production opened on September 25, 1931.

 

"SHEINDELE'S KHASENE"
by Ben Menachem, music by Janet Fleischman and Bennie Zeidman.


 

This review was written by D. Kaplan for the Yiddish Forward newspaper on October 2, 1931.


In the Amphion Theatre, which can be found in the Williamsburg quarter of Brooklyn,  there is being put on an operetta, "Sheindele's Wedding," by Ben Menachem. It is a beautiful, Yiddish thing and is performed quite fine.

The Amphion Theatre until today was a cheap movie place, but the company of Yiddish actors, given the current season, has shown that it is obviously very serious in giving this theatre a beautiful name and the proper attention among the Jewish community of that area. And the management and actors must be given credit: with a couple of things that they have already displayed with their performances, they have moved the theatre to a decent place within the family of Yiddish theatres in Greater New York. The first thing was "A froy vos shveygt (A Woman Who is Silent)," with which they had opened the theatre, which was quite fine, a relatively pure literary play, and the current operetta, "Sheindele's Wedding," is also a beautiful, enjoyable Yiddish "musical comedy," or surely a musical play.

The story, or action, of "Sheindele's Wedding," comes entirely from the old country on that side of the ocean, in a small town in Poland. In an operetta the story really is not important. It serves no more than a string on which one chants a chorale -- songs, melodies and dances. The main thing is not the string, but the shining stones and beads. The string, however, is sometimes a silken lace, and sometimes a simple piece of thread. On a silky lace the beads are more attractive.

If one wants songs and melodies to have the right effect, to meet in the heart, one must see that the action should be an interesting and moving, arouse in the audience the necessary feelings of sympathy for the participants involved in the play. The "lace" in "Sheindele's Wedding" has many similar threads.

The subject is actually an old one, but one that remains constantly new, and is always good for a theatre production, mainly for an operetta.

R' Hirsh Wolf, a rich and powerful Jew, a handsome man of means, a magid (preacher).  Already a man in his later year, he takes for a wife a poor, young girl, Sheindele [Sadie Schoengold]. She hates the old man. She has a very young beloved, a kloyznik [young man who devotes all his time to sacred studies in the synagogue], Yosef, who is indeed R' Hirsh Wolf's disciple. However she marries R'Hirsh Wolf because of her father, who was a rich man of means, but today he is an impoverished man and terribly destitute.

After the wedding there begins a series of troubles. Sheindele lives in a special bedroom, with a door that is closed at night. R' Hirsh Wolf returns: he has married her religiously and legally, he claims, so she should be his wife. He insults her. Her silent, noble father "turns to ashes and leaf."

The two young hearts are attracted, one to the other, and R' Hirsh Wolf arrives one day to find Sheindele in Yosef's arms. A scene occurs. Sheindele declares that she cannot live without Yosef. R'Hirsh Wolf says that he will give her a divorce. Sheindele is in seventh heaven with happiness. But it turns out that this is nothing more than a trick: R'Hirsh Wolf only wanted to show her that when he rejects her, she will also not be able to marry Yosef, because Yosef was a Kohain, and a Kohain according to Jewish law cannot marry someone who is divorced.

Bad. An unhappy, hopeless love. Yosef hasn't any other choice, so he goes away and tries to forget his unhappiness.

However, on stage it cannot be that simple. Such hot love goes to waste!

What does God (or the author) do? R' Hirsh suddenly dies when he is away, and with a widow a Kohain can marry. However, the troubles continue: Yosef has disappeared and has not been heard from for three years.

Sheindele, however, does not want to hear about anything. She does not want to forget her Yosef. You probably already understand for yourself that at the end of the third act he returns, and even so -- as a whole rabbi, uneducated and without European attire, and it ends with joy and happiness.

* * *


As usual in our operettas, the Sheindele-Yosef love is not the only thing. There are a few love-strings that fill the room with scenes, songs and couplets.

Almost all of the actors behave nicely and pleasant, with feeling. The role of the unhappy Sheindele is well adapted for her.

Sam Auerbach presents the role of R' Hirsh Wolf. With his handsome figure and strong voice he brings out a ... figure of a rich, strong vigor of the Chasidic, small-town world. This is an ungrateful role of a sinner and a despot who tyrannizes his young wife. Auerbach works very smoothly with this job: he does not salt too much too often.

Max Kletter plays the role of Yosef, R' Hirsh Wolfe's disciple. He is a truly handsome young man as a kloyznik (perhaps a little to handsome, too healthy), and yet handsome when he appears in a European-attired rabbi. No wonder that Sheindele is so in love with him.

Helen Beda, as Dina'le, Wolf's daughter from his first wife, and Abraham Lax, as her beloved Siomke. This time, the audience is not as amused by their buff-comic's  jokes and witticisms, which are usually their lot, as by their songs and dances.

Quite difficult [nish'ksh] were: Ella Wallerstein as Gnendl the cook, and Simon Wolf as Zanvil, the sexton; Bennie Zeidman as the tailor Shmuel Pritz, and Liza Tuchman as his wife Vikhne, and Max Henig as R' Berish, Sheindele's father.

We should not forget to mention a small "attraction," which adds to the appeal and sweetness of the operetta. From the Chasidic boys choir there performed a thirteen-year-old young boy, with a ringing, authentic, sweet Yiddish voice; he sings a solo with a cantorial gusto. With his eyes closed, garglen, and with the palm of his hands makes an impression of a true cantor.

 

 

 

 

 

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