Museum of the Yiddish Theatre


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The Second Avenue Theatre
482 Hopkinson Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
This production opened 0n November 3, 1933

(Yonah Seeks a Bride)

by Isidore Friedman, music by Benjamin Blank.
review by Lazar Fogelman, published on November 10, 1933


The Hopkinson Theatre has obviously gone completely on the path of comedies.

A comedy, in general, is one of the rare, most difficult dramatic creations, rarer and more difficult than many other dramatic creations. In a comedy the author must begin with the types that he is portraying and must illuminate them with humor; a genuine comedy always lies on the border of tragedy; and the comedy, as in life, is to a certain extent mixed with the tragedy. 

To create this kind of tragedy one should have a true master, an artist of God's grace, who demonstrates in himself both the depth of a tragedy and the philosophical smile of a humorist.

And such a happy combination occurs very rarely in life. Therefore there are very few artistic comedies; and for us Jews, the number of such is even more limited.

If, however, it is difficult to create a true comedy, dramatists often get away with light and frivolous comedies, which are basically more of a vaudeville or a burlesque than a comedy. Rather, true comic types create light vaudeville instead of real comic types. They create light vaudeville characters that have no definite character. Instead of comic situations, they lead through burlesque scenes, filled with jokes and similes.

True, the audience laughs at this as with a comedy, and quite often much more than at a comedy, but the laughter in this case is empty, frivolous; Such laughter does not lift us up and does not lighten our soul. It doesn't stop at all in the mind, and not in the heart after you leave the theatre. It's just a light pastime.

Such a kind of light comedy, which is more similar to vaudeville, is not being played in the Hopkinson Theatre. Isidore Friedman has written what is called a "musical comedy" with the name "Yoine Seeks a Bride"; Israel Rosenberg has contributed his couplets and songs, and it is being staged together with Yetta Zwerling's dance, under the accompaniment of Benjamin Blank's music.

It turns out to be a light, funny vaudeville, which causes a lot of laughter and greatly amuses the audience. The laughter often lights up the theatre and also upgrades the speech of the actors on stage.

A specially skilled person who evokes laughter is Menasha Skulnik, who is the soul of the theatre. He doesn't have to put in much effort; already his appearance alone amuses the audience, and he starts to play with his jokes and witticisms, and the theater goes crazy.

Imagine this kind of a story: a Jewish farmer, a widow, has a son, a foolish boy named Yoine; By chance, a New York gentleman [with the name of] Waldman comes over to the farmer along with his young daughter and his son-in-law; They have the strange idea to turn the [farmer's] grown son, the jackass, into a polished aristocratic young man from Park Avenue. They want to make an "experiment" out of him, together with a will. [?]

The gentleman's daughter undertakes [an effort] to make him fall in love with her and move him to New York. This Yoine is taught aristocratic manners in New York for an entire year. But from under his hard shirtfront and his tuxedo, the cool-headed yeshuvnik always emerges.

The end is that the lover Yoine learns from the middle-aged jealous groom that it is only a will, and he retaliates: from an aristocrathe becomes a farmer again. This is the main story; but around this story there are other side events and comical scenes. Yoine's father meanwhile has married a widow whose younger son leads a love with Yoine's sister; and the farmer's maid has married the farmer's butcher, who is at the same time a matchmaker, a badkhan, and even also a bootlegger.

As you can see, we have a whole bunch of interesting [folks] to spare here: as characters, they are all undefined and under-developed, but almost every one of them evokes happiness. 

Yoine is the central figure, the main source of laughter, and Skulnik, who has already experienced the roles of husbands for the last number of years, feels here like a fish in water.

His partner in creating laughter is Yetta Zwerling, who has other means for this than Skulnik. She is already a genuine vaudeville actress with an inclination to burlesque, and as such, she is not very selective in her means. Skulnik is mostly relaxed and calm. She is extremely mobile, hasty and noisy, and cannot rest for a minute on the stage.

Both of them together are good and are adapted for this kind of acting and for such plays. 

A second interesting pair is Mona Ash and Seymour Rechtzeit. Ash is young, beautiful and makes a pleasant impression. However, she still has not found her own tone. At the moment, she feels like something foreign, like an imitation; she should get rid of it and find her own way.

Seymour Rechtzeit is not bad in his role of the widow's beloved son.

The other couple, the gentleman's daughter with her husband, are little adapted to the general character of the comedy. The author did not give them even a drop of humor, not to mention dramatic content. Therefore, they could not fulfill the inner emptiness of their roles.

Betty Budanov is quite gracious and attractive, but here she doesn't have a good opportunity to show what acting skills she has. Her partner, Morris Novikov, has even less and even less in the bare role of the bridegroom.

Isidore Lipinsky as the butcher and matchmaker is funny, but he doesn't add his own and unique humor to his role.

Isidore Friedman brings out the rawness of the farmer as far as possible; but the author Isidore Friedman helps out the actor Isidore Friedman very little; the Jewish farmer has his own character traits. Why are they here?

This rich man is played by Bennie Zeidman, and the widow is played by Ella Wallerstein. What can be said about them? The first is man, the second is a woman.

Sara Skulnik plays an aristocratic old maid, who keeps on shouting: "He's atrocious!" (It's horrible.) We know nothing else about her; her character is the author's secret.

A pleasant surprise is the chorus, which consists of young and handsome men and women who sing and dance in a very lively manner, with a lot of temperament. Several numbers, for example, are fine and impressive.

A successful and cheerful scene is also the mass scene of the "mock marriage," a marriage done in jest, with Menasha Skulnik and Yetta Zwerling as the groom and bride.

The entire "musical comedy" is filled with jokes and happiness; it moves with a strong, hasty impulse, under the loud sounds of Blank's playful, light music.





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