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 YIDDISH THEATRE 101 > THE YIDDISH PLAYS > THE PLAY IN HISTORY  >  ABI GEZUNT                                                 

ABI GEZUNT1, Jacob Kalich and Sholem Perlmutter; music by Joseph Rumshinsky, lyrics by Molly Picon

(English: So Long As You're Healthy)

Here is part of the program from the Second Avenue Theatre production of "Abi Gezunt," when it played in New York City on Sunday evening, December 11, 1949. The show actually opened on October 8, 1949. Here is the cast at the time the production opened (in alphabetical order):





A third-rate Catskill Mountain hotel called "Bialystok Manor."

The opening ballet depicts a typical activity of such places as we see an animated card game. One of the owners of the hotel, PEMPICK (played by Irving Jacobson), listens to the complaints of the various guests. COOKY, the hotel cook (played by Henrietta Jacobson), is angry that PEMPICK's partner, RESNICK (played by Muni Serebroff), who has just been married a year, has been paying too much attention to the social director's wife, JEANETTE. She complains that this friendship is not "kosher" and against the policies of this "strictly kosher" establishment -- which is the perfect cue for their delightful number, "STRICTLY KOSHER."


The social director, HAPPY (played by Julius Adler), enters and gets a calling down from one of the guests, MRS. VIERNICK (with a capital "WEE"), played by Reizl Bozyk) -- she complains that there aren't enough "ACTIVITIES." This inspires the social director to make musical comments about the plight of a social director.


The scene shifts and we find ourselves in a hidden "nook for necking," where RESNICK and JEANETTE (played by Mae Schoenfeld), are living up to COOKY's complaints. An indignant PEMPICK enters and bawls out his partner and reminds him that is was only a year ago that he, RESNICK, went to his European home town as a delegate from his organization with bundles for the relief of the Jews of that war-stricken town.

In a flashback we see TZIRELE (played by MOLLY PICON), dressed in American cast-off garments from the bundle. She sings a satirical number about the contents of the bundles. RESNICK enters and declares his love for TZIRELE, and the ballet depicts the wedding of RESNICK and TZIRELE.

We flash back to the present again as TZIRELE enters. She immediately realizes what has been going on and warns JEANETTE away from her husband. RESNICK defends JEANETTE, saying that she has great charm -- that she is a French woman of great sophistication, and that he finds TZIRELE  dull by comparison. TZIRELE says that if RESNICK is that interested in French charm, she can invite her twin sister, MIRELE, who is just arriving from Paris to visit her.

RESNICK complains that TZIRELE is much too Orthodox and pious, and that she insists on observing every minor fast day, to the discomfort of her guests. He says that these observances are no longer necessary, since the Jews have a land of their own now -- Israel. TZIRELE cannot agree with is point of view because, she says, the past must be remembered. She then sings a song that shows how the past has brought about the present -- Israel.


This scene takes place in the social hall of Bialystok Manor and HAPPY is preparing for the evening's entertainment. COOKY's two daughters (played by the Feder Sisters), are rehearsing their number, "SAY IT WITH A SONG." RESNICK comes in and tells HAPPY that TZIRELE will not be there this evening since, when she arrived in New York to pick up her twin sister, MIRELE, she received a wire to go to Pittsburgh because her grandmother was ill. But MIRELE, the sophisticated French sister, has already arrived at the hotel, and it is so thrillingly lovely that he wants HAPPY to introduce her to the guests at the performance that evening.




The front lawn of Bialystok Manor.

HAPPY and JEANETTE extol the joys of country life -- and to prove their point  the ballet does "THE DANCE OF THE BUGS." PEMPICK by now is so in love with MIRELE that he can hardly see straight. He sings, "ABI GEZUNT," which means, "As Long As You're Healthy."



Mirele's room in the hotel.

RESNICK is making ardent love to his wife's twin sister. MIRELE is slowly getting drunk. She pumps RESNICK, trying to find out exactly why he is no longer in love with TZIRELE. RESNICK declares that he loves MIRELE so much, he is going to divorce TZIRELE. He exits to write a letter to his wife, telling her of his great decision. This leaves the stage to TZIRELE, who takes advantage of the situation to sing the very humorous "MANHATTAN COCKTAIL."

In comes TZIRELE's uncle, PINYA, from Pittsburgh (played by Max Bozyk). He almost spills the beans when he tells RESNICK that TZIRELE is not in Pittsburgh -- that her grandmother is not even sick. And he starts to say that TZIRELE never had a twin sister, but TZIRELE manages, through gestures, to keep PINYA quiet. RESNICK leaves to deliver his letter to TZIRELE.

The uncle and niece sing a duet, extolling the wonderful charm of Yiddish as a language. They sing, "MAMA-LOSHN" (Mother Tongue).



In front of the Bialystok Manor.

Enter COOKY, her two daughters; Mrs. VIERNICK and JEANETTE. This quintet from Sullivan County complains that the "French" MIRELE has alienated the affections of all the men at the hotel and has left them without even dancing partners. So they whirl to their own private dance -- "THE TZIMMIS POLKA."

PEMPICK upbraids RESNICK for wanting to divorce his wife. Uncle PINYA announces that TZIRELE has come back from Pittsburgh and is following her husband's example because she has also found a new love. HAPPY comes in and RESNICK accuses him of stealing his wife's affections.

Meanwhile, PEMPICK and COOKY have married. TZIRELE tells RESNICK that she's leaving him because he, too, has a new love. RESNICK pleads with her -- saying, it was only a flirtation -- and that the one he really wants is TZIRELE. TZIRELE says, "Well, all right. Then tell it to MIRELE."

Whereupon, TZIRELE strips off her demure gown to reveal that she is her own twin sister. This ties up all the loose ends to everyone's satisfaction and still leaves enough time for a "dessert" concocted by Jacob Kalich. This is a review of all the characters that Molly has played in this very theatre.

Various members of the company appear dressed as characters made famous by Miss Picon. And finally, Molly herself comes out as "YANKELE" -- which was the very first part Mr. Kalich wrote for her. And it was in this role that she first appeared on the stage of the Second Avenue Theatre 25 years ago.

*      *      *

The song, "ABI GEZUNT"

Hear it here.


A bit of sun, a bit of rain,
a peaceful place to lay your head …
so long as you’re healthy, you can be happy.

A shoe, a sock, an outfit without patches,
three or four measly coins in your pocket …
so long as you’re healthy, you can be happy.

The air is free, equal for all;
the sun shines for everyone,
whether rich or poor.

A little rejoicing, a little laughter,
some schnapps with a friend once in a while …
so long as you’re healthy, you can be happy.

Some look for riches,
some look for power,
to conquer the whole world.
Some think that all happiness
depends only on money.

Let them all search,
let them all scrounge.
But I think to myself that
I have no use for such things,
since happiness is waiting at my doorstep.


*** The Yiddish script for "Abi Gezunt" can be found, beginning on page 17, at: .




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