Monday, July 20, 2009

Broward Stage Door: Knish Alley! (5 reviews)

The Broward Stage Door premiered Tony Finstrom's Knish Alley! on July 17th, 2009. Originally slated to open a week earlier, a cast change pushed it back a week.
...a wonderful new comedy, set in the early 1900’s, follows a troupe of Jewish actors as they travel to America on board an ocean liner to seek a new and better life on New York's Second Avenue, otherwise known as Knish Alley.
Dan Kelly directs a cast that includes Kally Khourshid, Kevin Reilley, Steven A. Chambers, Jaime Libbet-Smith, Todd Bruno, Miki Edelman, and David Hemphill.
The Miami Herald has declined to review this production.*

Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
Part historical fiction and part shameless collection of vintage punch lines, South Floridian Tony Finstrom’s Knish Alley is a good idea for a play still waiting to be developed.

The script, being premiered at Coral Spring’s Broward Stage Door, has already had several readings at area theaters, yet it still seems at least one draft away from being ready for production.
Broward Stage Door deserves credit for venturing into the risky terrain of new plays, but director Dan Kelley needed to nudge his playwright to edit down Knish Alley for its own good. The cast is as uneven as the writing. They are not the problem, but nor do they give the material much assistance.
Mary Damiano reviewed for
Playwright Tony Finstrom's play Knish Alley! is the first world premiere at Broward Stage Door Theatre in Coral Springs, a theatre that presents popular musicals and plays for its core audience of retirees. Knish Alley!, a play steeped in stories of Yiddish theatre, is a good fit for that demographic.
The cast does an outstanding job, especially Kevin Reilley as theatre-mad, put upon Zelig. Reilley's accent never falters, his body language is perfection, and his persistent cough adds a note of poignancy. Reilley's portrayal of a tailor who comes to life when he gets to appear onstage, only if just to hold title cards for the audience, is funny and touching.
Knish Alley! is strong on emotion, nostalgia and sentimentality, but weak on tension, and Finstrom ties up this neat little package with a cheery red ribbon. It's a pleasant, though predictable, diversion.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for the Sun-Sentinel;
An old commercial advised, "You don't have to be Jewish to love Levy's Rye Bread, but it helps." In the case of Knish Alley, a world premiere at Broward Stage Door, it's essential -- and even then, this pastry often falls flat.
Finstrom's script is shot through with humor, but its quality varies wildly. A good deal of it are lame third-rate vaudeville jokes; some are first-rate vaudeville jokes ("He's been faithful -- lots of times"), and some is as genuinely comical as Marx Brothers banter. But it requires the Marx Brothers to pull it off and they're nowhere in sight. Director Dan Kelley has been unable to get this cast to master the timing necessary to put this material over.
A fifth of the jokes require the audience know some Yiddish because the humor lies in the use of words such as tochis or cultural references like Kuni Lemmel. No matter the number of yucks, the humor gets weighed down in truckloads of exposition and historical nuggets.
John Lariviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway:
Steven A. Chambers turns in a solid performance as Yoseph in this production, though he wanders in and out of his accent. Miki Edelman is enjoyable as his suspicious wife Fanny, but she and Chambers make an unconvincing couple. Kally Khourshid is sweet as Sophie and manages to establish a believable chemistry with Todd Bruno as her romantic interest. David David Hemphill is cute as the young and eager Jack, with his exclamations of "Good gravy!" Jaime Libbert-Smith is the least successful with her accent, as it seems to vary from country to country, never settling in any one spot. Her acting choices also seem very deliberate. Kevin Reilly is charming as Zelig. His Yiddish accent is thoroughly convincing and his mannerisms completely comfortable. He has the endearing feel of a grandfatherly storyteller who leaves us wanting to hear more.
There is an old world sense to the writing style of Knish Alley that makes it worn and welcome, and Finstrom's fondness for this era in history comes through in his writing. The playwright needs to remember that people go to the theatre wanting to be included in the experience, and they should not be left out of sharing in a moment because they don't have a working Yiddish vocabulary.
Ron Levitt reviewed for ENV Magazine:
...a budding playwright (a funny Kevin Reilley), a family of thespians (Steven A. Chambers, Miki Edelman, Kally Khourshid), a philandering stage star (Todd Bruno), a pregnant actress (Jaime Libbert) and a handsome, “I-wanna-be an actor” , cabin-boy (the excellent David Hemphill). Broward Stage Door Director Dan Kelley held the baton over this cast.
The second-act interchange between Reilley and Chambers in which they translate a Yiddish version of Shakespeare into American English – using “title cards” — is priceless vaudeville-style comedy.
Knish Alley! plays at Broward Stage Door Theatre through August 30, 2009.

1 comment:

  1. How can Stephen Chambers have turned in a solid performance if he wanders in and out of his accent? I'd say he was barely seviceable, and that is being very generous.