YIDDISH THEATRE 101 > THE YIDDISH PLAYS > THE PLAY IN HISTORY  >  THE IDLE INN                                                 

Jechiel Goldsmith,
who plays Bendet,
a horse dealer

THE IDLE INN1, by Peretz Hirshbein
(Yiddish: Di puste kretshme)

Here is the main cast from the Jewish Art/New Yiddish Theatre production of this play when it opened at the Yiddish Art Theatre in New York City, on September 1, 1919:

Bina Abramowitz, Celia Adler, Sam Adler, Anna Appel, Adolph Abrahams, Jacob Ben-Ami, Isidor Elgard, Lazar Freed, Ida Feldman, Jechiel Goldsmith, Sonia Gurskaya, Hyman Meisel, Gershon Rubin, Henrietta Schnitzer, Joseph Schoengold and Sol Schmuckler.

So, here is the synopsis of Andreyev's "The Idle Inn". The name of the actor or actress who portrayed a particular role is indicated in parentheses:


In a countryside lives Bendet (Jechiel Goldsmith), a horse dealer, Nearby lives Isaac (Hyman Meisel), an innkeeper. These two agree to a marriage between Maite (Celia Adler), and the innkeeper's son Laibush (Lazar Freed). Maite loves Itzik (Jacob Ben-Ami), her cousin, but submits to her father's wishes, and agrees to marry Laibush.

On the highroad in the vicinity stands the Idle Inn, an old structure said to be infested with evil spirits. Upon Maite's betrothal, the parents agree to rebuild the Idle Inn, and settle the young couple there.

The wedding take place, and Itzik is one of the guests. All the neighbors have come to participate. Suddenly appear a number of strange-looking traveling merchants. Their presence excites comment on the part of the guests. So many travelers had never visited their locality at one time.

According to Jewish custom, the bride is the recipient of gifts. The strange merchants all present the bride with rare cloth, and jewels of untold price. As the bride places the jewels about her person, the guests regard her, and the merchants with deep awe. Many of the neighbors remark that the whole proceeding is uncanny. Fears of strange influences are whispered from car to car.

After the ceremony Itzik carries off Maite. The disappearance of the bride causes consternation. According to an old Jewish belief, a bride must not be left alone on the day of her wedding, as on that day she is in especial danger of being beset by evil spirits. "The Idle Inn," people say, "has been dismantled to make room for the new home, and now the evil spirits being disturbed, are greatly incensed, and are visiting vengeance upon the families." All rush off to seek the missing bride.

In a desolate patch of wood by the "Idle Inn" are Maite and Itzik quarreling stormily and loving passionately. Bendet appears and rushes at Itzik. Maite is taken home. She refuses to join her husband in their new home. Bendet is terribly wrought up. He ascribes all the evil to the unclean spirits. He is half-crazed with fear. Suddenly he rushes off and sets fire to the "Idle Inn," this being considered by him an effective means of ridding himself of the spell of the evil ones. Itzik appears. Upon seeing him, Bendet, who associates his presence with the evil spirits, goes into another fit of uncontrollable rage. Almost insane, he sets fire to his own house. As the flames eat their way about the home, Maite becomes terror-stricken, and attempts to flee with her parents. They escape through the window, but Itzik intercepts her. "Now you will not escape me," he tells her, and carries her off.

["Idle Inn" theater still.]

[Jacob Ben-Ami in "Idle Inn".]

Stills from this production of "The Idle Inn."


Celia Adler,
who plays Maite, Bendet's daughter

Bina Abramowitz, who plays
Bendet's wife

Gershon Rubin,
who plays
the grandfather Schachne

Peretz Hirshbein,
who is the author
of this play

Hyman Meisel,
who plays
Isaac, an innkeeper

Lazar Freed,
who plays
the bridegroom

Jacob Ben-Ami,
who plays
Bendet's nephew



1 -- From the playbill for the 1919 Jewish Art Theatre production of "The Idle Inn."




Photograph courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York and the Yiddish Forward newspaper.

Copyright Museum of the Yiddish Theatre.  All rights reserved.