"Lady Next Door" Opens
Folksbiene's 89th Season
A tale of 20th century immigrants,
performed first in 1916, gets the forever-young Folksbiene
Yiddish Theater's 89th consecutive season off to a great
start with Leon Kobrin's "The Lady
Next Door" at the handsome new Jewish Community Center
theater at 76th and Amsterdam. Skillfully adapted and directed
by Allen Lewis Rickman, who also translated the English super
titles above the stage, the play will continue through January
Subtitled, "Temptation in the Tenements," it's
a classic comedy-drama about a strong handsome immigrant
blacksmith from the Russian shtetl who falls head over heels
for a conceited vamp, and forgets all about the wife, a real
mensh, he left at home. That's the essence; yet the plot
extends beyond this theme to include assimilation, shedding
the old world ways, come what may, to take advantage of opportunities
and temptations in the new world.
"The Lady Next Door" begins on a balmy day in 1913
at home of the local blacksmith Kulye, (David Mandelbaum) in
the shtetl, where a lurking constable and his dogs and money
lender (played by Rickman) keep the Jews in line. Kulye's kids
Khyenke (Alison Cimmet) and the short tempered Velvel (Sam
Guncler), who habitually has run-ins with the constable, and
Ben-Tsien, (Amitai Kedar), the rabbi's son and Kheynke's secret
fiance, are packing to leave for America. Velvel's young wife,
Hindele (Yelena Shmulenson-Rickman) weeps and worries about
their safety. "We'll live like royal lovebirds," says
Velvel, promising to send for her in three months.
Two years later: Velvel hasn't even
thought of bringing his wife over. In fact, he has become "Willie," a
jaunty, smooth-shaven guy and non-observant Jew, with a bow
tie and snappy suit, a labor organizer and powerful orator.
Also, he often visits the Suffolk Street neighbor of the
now wed, Khyenke and Ben-Tsien, the painted and powdered
Clara Ryabtshik (Debra Frances Ben), his ideal modern woman,
who ignores her widowed mother, and taunts her husband Gimpl
(I.W. Firestone), a man of considerable means and ingenuity.
Gimpl sends money to Russia to bring Kulye and Hindele to
I hate to give away the ending. Go, find out for yourself!
(Tickets, $45, 212-239-6200; groups, 212-213-2120.)#