Museum of the Yiddish Theatre


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The PublicTheatre
66 Second Avenue, New York, NY
This production opened on October 5, 1938.


(The Wise Fool)

by Louis Freiman, music by Joseph Rumshinsky


The following review by L. Fogelman of "The Wise Fool" was first published in the Yiddish Forward newspaper on October 14, 1938:

"The Wise Fool," Louis Freiman's operetta, which is now playing in the Public Theatre, is built on a true, dramatic theme, although not seeing anything new.

It has a wedding of a middle-aged American Jew, an old man, with a beautiful young girl from Europe, and when he brings her over here his young wife from the old country, she falls in love with his younger son, and the father's happiness is granted. Around this revolves the main dramatic sphere of the play.

However for the author there was little such serious confrontation between the love of a father and a son for one and the same woman. He also weaved into the fabric of the play a second drama, a love between a young Jewish girl, the daughter of the old man, and an Italian prize fighter.

Thus a thick, twin drama was created, which was loaded with dramatic substance to the very shores.

And the dramatic content here is just a very natural and thankful material for a play.

If we had come out of the theatre literally depressed from difficult experiences, however, we would have come to the aid of Menasha Skulnik and Tillie Rabinowitz, the talented comic pair and have wiped the tears from our eyes with their easy, cheerful playing.

And this is already in the case in the Yiddish operetta: a strong melodrama, together with a light comedy or vaudeville. He always explains to us that the Yiddish audience loves that type of combination; the average Jew they say, loves to have a good time and to have a good time at the theatre at the same time.

From this point of view, the "Wise Fool" is really an ideal operetta -- one can get away with it and laugh enough.

The dramatic burden of the play lies here on healthy, strong shoulders, because there are currently available in the Public Theatre some very gifted actors.

The main role of the father, the older man with the younger woman, is played with temperament by Menachem Rubin, with a strong force, at times a little too strong. and when it comes to the singing numbers, Rubin also feels as if he is by himself at home, because he has a fine voice and can sing.

The role of his younger European woman is played by Ola Shlifko, a young actress who came over from Poland. She makes a pleasant impression with her fine stage manners, with her restrained and quiet acting, and with her clear diction. She's a good dramatic actress, judging by how much one can judge from an operetta, and she brings a fresh noble tone to our screaming, noisy Yiddish theatre.

The role of the young Jewish girl, who falls in love with the Italian, is played by Gertie Bulman, very lively and gracefully. She has developed quite a bit the last several years on the stage, our young Bulman. Her voice sounds beautiful, and she also feels entirely free in strong, dramatic moments.

And Jacob Rechtzeit, who plays the role of the son, who is beloved by his second wife, feels like a fish in water on the stage. He is as fit for the Yiddish operetta.

Menasha Skulnik plays here, as he does every time, the role of a stupid, foolish man who almost always appears as the wise man in the play. His humor here consists mostly of reeled-off jokes and singing naively vaudeville couplets. He does this with success every time, but it also seems to me with self-sacrifice; because he is, unfortunately, offering his true acting talent for the price of cheap laughter, and oft times even for a price of a vulgar, fat joke. This is a slippery road for an actor.

Tillie Rabinowitz in the role of the Italian mother is so flaky and comical that she takes the audience by storm. She shows a lot of charm on the stage, the mobile, temperamental Rabinowitz.

Leon Gold, the singer, this time did not have much to do with his voice in the role of the Italian prizefighter.

Jacob Wexler as an "idel a kakhlefel (a noble, a ladle) [?]" is funny, but his role does not give him any great opportunities.

Rose Greenfield as the old mother holds up as usual with dignity on the stage and plays in a restrained manner.

Joseph Rumshinsky's music is natural, the spine of the entire operetta; and here it is pointed out Rumshinsky's ability to create his own original, catchy melodies that he conducts as always with a high

sounding tenor and with a strong tempo.

The furnishings of the operetta are entirely rich, and you have here what you want for yourself: from an icon in an Italian house to a Torah scroll (elsewhere, a dance around the Torah can not be considered a real Yiddish operetta.)

Incidentally, entire scenes of the "Wise Fool" go by with a broken English, due to the Italian pair who the author has inserted into the play. True, the broken Italian's English here serves as a source of humor, but it is not a great option for a Yiddish operetta.

In general the audience was entirely amused with the "Wise Fool." And it carries the moral that an older man should not marry a young woman, because such a covenant can bring no happiness.

The "Wise Fool," the extraordinary combination of a strong melodrama with a comedy and vaudeville, is being directed by Menasha Skulnik.





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