Museum of the Yiddish Theatre


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The Yiddish Folks Theatre
189 Second Avenue, New York, NY
This production opened on September 21, 1931.

(Such is Life)

by Harry Kalmanowitz


This review was written by L. Fogelman and was first published in the Yiddish Forward newspaper on September 25, 1931. Here is its English translation:

The Folks Theatre has started the season with H. Kalmanowitz's play, "Such is Life."

The play is built on the relationship between parents and their children and is about the dark sides of family life generally. This is Kalmanowitz's beloved theme. Most of his dramas deal with the eternal, unspoken theme of parents and children from two various worlds who live together under one roof and can seldom coexist in a peaceful, harmonious manner.

Most of his plays touch on the faint strings of our hearts, -- the gap between the old and the young generation. But unfortunately it does not deepen the dramatic clash between the two generations, and it acquires a more photographic image than a true work of art.

Generally Kalmanowitz's plays are higher and cleaner in content than the average melodramas that are "created" by the sworn Yiddish melodrama writers. He chooses interesting themes for his plays, taken from ordinary and unnatural melodramatic stuff with various adventures, with murders and suicides. He builds his dramas on genuine dramatic experiences and conflicts that occur every day in our homes. This shows that he has a sincere approach to a drama and a better literary taste.

However at the same time he seldom leads his plays to the necessary artistic depth; he can still not deviate from time to time from a melodramatic tone and melodramatic effects. Therefore his plays often stand in between drama and melodrama; they are higher than the average melodrama and do not rise to a genuine literary and artistic drama.

The main idea of his current play could be expressed in one phrase: If you do not fix up your life, everything will lead to the same sad end. And he leads by this thought quite simply: he takes a pair who have no children and proves that they are unhappy because of this: he takes a second pair of people who have children: and he takes an older boy and shows that he, too, is miserable and unhappy, longing for a home, for a family.

It turns out that what one does will not work at all. Get married, don't get married, have children, don't have any children, -- the ending is the same: everywhere, disappointments and troubles.

This is the pessimistic, blackish philosophy of Kalmanowitz's drama, "Such is Life." If that's the way life is, that's all there is to it ... and when you look at the scenes of the play, it does seem that life is a sad wheel around which all of us revolve.

This pair of folks who have no children suffer very deeply. They suffer from it very much. The foolish man is busy raising birds, exchanging having children for this, and his wife runs away from their "bird home" ...

The second pair of folks also do not have a very smooth life. The upbringing of the children is very difficult for them. It's a beggarly life, full of heartache and hardship: one child learns badly in school and then dies away; a second son races around with his wife; the musician, not pleased with them, leaves home, "go in good health," and he marries a Christian; this presents the parents with the last and heaviest blow. Yes, not happy with them at home: the occasional, rare moments of joy are also marred by their nervous, strained lives. And because of need and perpetual distress, every one of the relationships between husband and wife is also diminished.

Thus one turns with the difficult wheel of life, one's joy, with a bundle of hope in the heart.

Not happy either is the old man who goes to strange homes, where he is looking for a fire, where he can warm his soul.

"Such is Life" is one of those plays in which the breath of everyday, daily life is felt; it is an unadorned, unpainted picture of life in which the great truth of our reality is seen.

It is not one picture of life, but a series of images; it is a chain of events that are in truth not events at all because they occur every day, every hour to millions of people in their houses.

The play was staged and performed with the necessary attention and sincerity. Most of the roles were performed in a natural way.

Misha German is described as the type of man who carries the heavy burden of life in a quiet, restrained manner and in a correct tone. In a moment he deals with the emptiness that was going on around him and in him.

Lucy German was much better in the quiet moments of her sorrow, and with her offended female pride, before the weeping, sentimental moments, when she had, according to the role, to lament and cry. It was not her fault, however, that she had to shed the melodramatic tears.

Very good was Mark Schweid in the role of the old tailor, who has evolved his philosophy of patience in life. With his good-natured smile, with his tone of "foolishness," with his puffy beard he arouses in us compassion and sympathy.

And Sonia Nadolsky also plays well in the role of his wife.

The audience did not want Menasha Skulnik to leave the stage. And his success is understandable: he has within him his crumple in his acting, his own tone. He was the embodiment of a foolish, characterless man. True, he often has a tendency to exaggerate and use singular movements; he does not always have enough comic substance to play with, and he just wants to be downright comical, so he sometimes falls into a burlesque tone. However, he wants to overcome his weaknesses. He wants to see himself once in a real, reserved comic role. I think he would have been very good.

Izidor Casher plays warmly and naturally as the old guy.

Celia Boodkin plays quite well the first half of her role, the role of the younger and middle-aged woman. Unfortunately this cannot be said about the second part, when she has to play an older woman. She could either not pick up either the right tone, or the right gait of an older woman. This is not her call.

According to the program the youngest son was to be played by Scooler; however, he became ill, so the role was performed by David Yanover quite well.

The role of Bennie, the son, who caused his parents heartbreak over his awkward relationship with his wife, was played by [Yakob] Bergreen. The role did not give him a great opportunity to play. He was not bad.

And with a living, childlike grace the children, Motele Brand, Eleanor Hausman, Eddie Friedlander and Seymour Schorr, carried out their roles.

The musical numbers are from Sholom Secunda.

In general German has with his new offering of Kalmanowitz's play, shown that he has, as always, high ambitions to give the best and more literary drama. And therefore he deserves the support of the better Jewish community.





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