Daniel Okrent & Peter Gethers
Old Jews Telling Jokes
407 West 43rd Street
By Peter Gethers & Daniel Okrent
Directed by Marc Bruni
Bill Army, Marilyn Sokol, Todd Susman
Audrey Lynn Weston, Lenny Wolpe
Donald Corren on Piano
Scenic and Video Design: David Gallo
Costume Design: Alejo Vietti
Lighting Design: Jeff Croiter
Sound Design: Peter Fitzgerald
Animation: Steve Channon
Musical Supervision and Arrangements: Adam Wachter
Casting: Tara Rubin Casting
Marketing: Leann Schanzer Promotions, Inc.
Frankel Green Theatrical Management/Joe Watson
Production Supervision: Production Core/James E. Cleveland
Production Stage Manager: William H. Long
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 2, 2012 Matinee
Old Jews Telling Jokes was somewhat disappointing, as about half the jokes were hilarious and the other half were drowned out by the pianist or were uncomfortably too sex-oriented, a not-funny gag. The show made me wish for the decades-old humor of Woody Allen films and Jackie Mason shows. They were really funny. Today’s matinee seemed to fall flat, just when you were primed for a big laugh, but sometimes I and my guest were pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately for the cast, the loudest laughs came during a video of Alan King in a tux, having ladies in a gala audience read lines from obituaries, all declaring, “he was survived by his wife”. Someone needs to write a show that’s made up of film clips of Jewish humor, like King’s, adding Milton Berle, the Marx brothers, Carl Reiner, Don Rickles, Jerry Lewis, Joey Bishop, Sid Caesar, and on the list goes. But today’s show did have its own worthy highlights.
The cast included Lenny Wolpe as Morty, Marilyn Sokol as Bunny, Todd Susman as Nathan, Audrey Lynn Weston as Debbi, Bill Army as Reuben, with Donald Corren as the pianist. The five comedians took turns in some rapid-fire joke marathons, some two or three actor comedy routines, or some set-ups for the next comedian in line. Ms. Sokol was hilarious in a wig and some over-sized and stuffed dresses, and Lenny Wolpe came across as a pro, in a grandfatherly, elder Jewish style. Todd Susman was the most effective of the group, although very quiet spoken, as he rattled jokes with wry, dry send-ups. Bill Army and Audrey Lynn Weston were the two youthful actors, who told their jokes from the point of view of twenty-somethings. Thanks to Steve Channon, there were cute animations that helped divide the humor into themes, and David Gallo’s video and sound design was excellent, providing clear resonance for live and filmed sequences. Alejo Vietti provided campy costumes that helped expand the experience.
On leaving the theater, my afternoon companion and I were trying to re-create our favorite jokes. It wasn’t easy, as the intermittent piano accompaniment was usually too loud, but, besides the filmed King sequence, memorable for its simplicity and personality, we both remembered a sequence about a billboard of Jesus, hanging on the cross, advertising Levinson’s nails (which neither of us found profoundly funny). The gestalt of the humor, however, with a haze of Jewish mother shtick, was mostly light-hearted and happy. (To see videos of real life old Jews telling jokes, click here.) (To see Alan King’s filmed segment on “Survived by His Wife”, click here.)