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Theater for every taste, Yiddish /Wongo-ish..It’s all Fun

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Talk about diversity. New York is certainly the land of plenty. Just this week alone, I spent time in an Irish/Yiddish world and the next day was transported by intergalactic forces to the Planet Wongo. All this for a subway token.

The Bespoke Overcoat

The Bespoke Overcoat

Wolf Mankowitz, British/Jewish polyglot is being represented by New Yiddish Rep at the Cell Theatre on West 23rd Street. In two one-act plays “2 by Wolf,” we get a sampling from the prolific pen of Mankowitz. “The Irish Hebrew Lesson” perhaps the only tri-lingual play of its kind written in English, Irish and Yiddish, is followed by “The Bespoke Overcoat,” performed in a Yiddish. (Supertitles are used in the latter play.) The director is Romanian Moshe Yassur, who has had a long career as actor/director here and in Israel.
The Irish Hebrew Lesson pits a religious Jew with a penchant for languages next to a young Irish rebel, hoping to rid Ireland of the British as St. did with the snakes. The rebel is too young to realize the fragility of life and so the older man takes the opportunity to protect the boy and himself by teaching him a little Hebrew and a little philosophy. That the rebel shares the same anti-Semitic joke that the interrogating English soldiers do is just another reminder of the how the pecking order of prejudice works.
The second play is about labor, money and the need to stay warm; as well as the need for dignity, even after death. A tailor negotiates with a poor man to make him a new, warm coat, but (at least as I understood), he only truly offers after he has heard the man died. That it takes a ghost to readdress charity makes sense…you don’t know what you’ve lost till it’s gone. The ghost suffers like all poor but in the end (or in the afterlife) takes his retribution from the greedy employer while the tailor relies on his schnapps to make sense of his own life.
Both plays are beautifully acted by Menachem Fox, Stuart Cullen, Lev Herskovitz, Ilan Kwittken, Shane Baker and Fergal O’Hanlon. Mr. Baker was also the translator. Show runs till July 2.



From Yiddishkeit to Wongolite…composer Dave Ogrin has taken his wonderful Wild Women of Planet Wongo which originally was presented in a classic theatrical setting and moved it to the outer galaxy of Bushwick for a cosmic immersive experience in space. With the feel of a 60’s B movie, two astronauts, delivering CheesyMoon Crater Chips to hungry space stations, find themselves after three long years on a planet in habited only by women. Though hesitant at first, the captain finally joins his crewmate in tasting the delicacies of the Wongo Flesh, in his case, the Queen. But sex isn’t the only thing the Wongettes have in mind…they are also starved –and have very different plans for their male guests.
It’s great fun to interact with the Amazonian Wongo girls and drink Wongotini’s made fresh at the Brooklyn Fireproof bar. The book by Steve Mackes, lyrics by Ben Budick, Steve Mackes, and Dave Ogrin is witty, sexy and very feel good. (The Wongotinis help with that, too). The cast of young singer dancers is joyful and lovingly directed by David Rigano. Musical director is Rachel Dean with choreography by Juson Williams.
The show runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday until July 4, with a Wongo dance party after the late show on weekends. If you can’t get to Joshua Tree this summer to make contact with the aliens, I’d happily settle for Bushwick and Wongo World.


Written by nancykoan

June 16, 2015 at 3:32 am

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Graham Chapman speaks out

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A Liar’s Autobiography , is a strangely wonderful film adventure – a dolby 3d animated auto- biography of a dead man. According to the credits, no medium was used, only the good sense of Month Python’s Graham Chapman who recorded his voice two years before his early death at forty-eight.

Chapman, alcoholic and gay, straddled life’s highway, sometimes having his way with the world through his comic genius, and at other points, burdened with alcoholism and zealous sexual activity. As one person said upon leaving the theatre, “I’ve never heard so many versions of Sit On My Face before, referring to a musical extravaganza of this sexually liberating tune.

The film uses fourteen different animation groups to tell Graham’s story, from early childhood, through Eton, Cambridge and his success as a Python. The fantastic array of animation is aided by the real life voices of Michael Palin, Terry Jones, John Cleese and Terry Gillian all creating a breathing testament to this man’s life. Cameron Diaz also does a goofy Austrian Freud voice.

Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson and Ben Timlett direct and know their subject well. It’s a wonderful homage to the one Python whose career did not extend past being with the group. It’s often funny and quite adult and I particularly liked the Scarborough segment. Towards the end, the storyline seemed a bit dense, but perhaps that’s how his life was at the end. Still, it’s a magical mystery tour which does honor to his  memory.

Written by nancykoan

October 19, 2012 at 4:30 am

Cook County film review

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Cook County has the feel of  really being there and at the same time wishing you could get the next bus to anywhere else, In this beat town in East Texas, a dysfunctional family tries to make sense of itself in a world that offers little hope or understanding. They live with consistent lack of jobs, crap food and a desperate vision for a future; remnants of the American dream epidemic that still holds them in its thorny claw.    Cook County could be any one of the dying small towns across America; where poverty and lack of opportunity more often than not lead to drug and alcohol as a respite from ennui and rage. In this case, it’s crystal meth, the one crystal not approved of by the New Age. Meth makes them crazy and mean and producing it becomes a way of supporting their slight life style. That they don’t all commit group suicide is an indication of just how delusional this type of living becomes.

A solid script by writer director David Pommes, a first film for a lawyer –by- day, and terrific performances by Xander Berkeley (24) and Anson Mount(Hell on Wheels),who also co-produced it, Polly Cole, lend much weight to this tough film. It’s hard to hate these people as the hero Berkeley  truly tries to make a shift; but they are a by-product of something gone wrong for too long. When Mount’s daughter and nephew (Ryan Donowho, Broken Flowers) spend a day with overweight relatives in a safe and Christian Texas suburb, the extremes of our culture really hit home. There is no in-between in the lives of these people. Feast or famine. At home, Berkely tells his son Donowho to put newly purchased potato chips in a bowl. The son looks at him as if he’s out of his mind. They haven’t eaten out of a bowl in years

Mount, as the worst of the addicts, has to make a choice at one point… to feed his addiction or sacrifice the only bit of the feminine left in him. It is a Lear moment, a blind man unable to control base instincts of ego and need. It is a brave and scary piece of writing and acting.

This film is finally being released after receiving numerous festival awards and deserves attention. It’s not pretty like Days of Heaven, but is pretty accurate in portraying forgotten America.

The film opens in NYC this Friday.

Written by nancykoan

December 15, 2011 at 4:33 pm

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