Museum of the Yiddish Theatre



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Parkway Theatre
(formerly the Rolland Theatre)
1768 St. John's Place, Brooklyn, NY
This production opened on February 8, 1935.

(The Straw Soldier)

by Isidore Friedman, music by Sam Medoff.
review by Dan Kaplan, published on February 15, 1935.


In the Parkway Theatre in Brownsville, there is now a musical comedy, "The Straw Soldier," which well deserves the name of an anti-war production.The content is from the time of the World War, when America entered into the war, and from the events immediately after this. The show contains many jokes, funny pranks on soldiers and their heroism, but also it has several serious, sad scenes that make a strong impression, calling forth a curse upon all warriors and war-leaders.

The author of the comedy, Isidore Friedman, was an American soldier himself in France, lying there in the trenches, and apparently horrible things (he once described it in the "Forward," and a long series of articles under the name, "A Year Between Life and Death"). Here in the comedy, he brought in several scenes from that. His experiences are from that mass, and they make the desired impression with their sincerity, the bitter truth that they present. 

For example: in the first act, which takes place in a trench on a battlefield in France, it is shown how the soldiers tremble as they walk into the fire, trembling before death. The feeling of proving yourself a hero and waving a medal is lost in the sea of fear, of unheard of pride for the future.

And more such natural human traits.

Very touching is the scene where a mother sees her son who has returned from the battlefield, but he lacks a hand. She is the same as she saw him, a living person, but the sleeve that hangs next to him, makes her heart laugh.

The more serious, sad songs are only a small part of the production. As a musical comedy,of course, it had to be filled with a lot of funny scenes, with strength and laughter to please the audience, as well as with a lip-smacking of the old, amusing melodramatic fashion, as befits a musical comedy.

The main jokemaker and clown is Menasha Skulnik. He is this straw soldier who comes out everywhere. Poor thng, a coward, but full of a gentle, natural-human grace, he wins the sympathy of the audience. For Menasha Skulnik, an actor does not really need to create any role; he plays the role himself with his funny humor, with his funny antics. The role is not important -- Menasha Skulnik is important. From his special way of speaking, from his comical gait, from his every turn, the audience keeps laughing, and that's all that is needed.

About the jokes, it is what he always does. I would like to note here a couple of them, the not very clean ones (e.g. with castor oil and "loyfn"), he meant to throw it out, and it wouldn't have hurt him at all. They remind us of the bad jokes and disgusting bullshit with which a well-known star works out ... on the Yiddish stage.

A cheerful pair who create jokes and laughter for the audience are Irving Jacobson and Mae Schoenfeld -- he as a Jewish soldier on the battlefield, and she as a young French girl. They fall in love, come to America and get married, and she tries to become a proper Jewish wife.

Anna Toback takes the main role in the musical part of the production. She speaks pleasantly and perfectly fine and generally makes a fine impression with her appearance and figure.

Sara Skulnik plays the role of the mother whose son comes from the battlefield without a hand. She does not have much to play, but the small scene that she leads with him has a certain heartiness.

Also participating are: Isidore Friedman, Frances Weintraub, Morris Novikov, Shimen Ruskin, Sidney Zwerling, Zvi Scooler, Max honig, Larry Gilbert, Jacob Himmelstein and Isidore Lipinsky.





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