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December 23, 1988 - Image 81

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-12-23

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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"The Immigrant."
"I am a Jewish person, but
writing is not necessarily con-
fined to Jewish interests," he
says. "I wrote The Immigrant
for a non-Jewish audience. I
always intended it as a play
about America."
The play follows Harelik's
immigrant grandparents
leaving the persecution of
turn-of-the-century Russia for
the wild west of Texas. In a
way, it suggests the univer-
sality of Fiddler on the Roof
but it is in a shtetl all its own.
Harelik's play is hot meant
as a Texas Tevye and
Galveston Golda. But, like
Fiddler, The Immigrant
tackles issues relevant to any
stranger in a strange land.
In many ways, works by
Neil Simon, arguably the
most Jewish of contemporary
Jewish playwrights, are as
American as a corned beef
special. There is no doubt
that an undercurrent of
Jewishness has charged up
some of his best works. Still,
the general theater public
has taken his work to heart
because of the universality of
his humor.
It has been only recently,
however, with his sucessful
trilogy of "BB" plays, that
Simon has allowed his Jewish
perspective to shine through.
Sometimes, to the an-
noyance of Jewish theater
producers, all audiences
clamor for is Simon, Simon,
Simon.
"People who come here
want to be entertained, not
challenged," says Appino of
Studio Y Players. "We have to
fall back on standbys like
Neil Simon."
Eric Goldman understands
her dilemma. "Writers trying
to attack real issues are met
with indifference," he says.
"Jewish audiences just don't
want to see it. Things will not
sell if they're too pro-
blematic."
What Jewish theaters need
most from their audiences,
playwrights and producers,
say those in the know, is an
affirmation of a future, a com-
mitment to endurance.
On this issue, there is much
concern. "I'm not optimistic,"
says Eric Goldman. "Great
talents aren't being encourag-
ed to explore topics of merit.
You're going to wind up with
second-class writers."
And maybe a second-class
community? Bernard Wax,
director of the American
Jewish Historical Society in
Waltham, Mass., is worried
that art may merely be reflec-
ting life. "It is not a question
of whether Jewish theater
will fade, but if the country's
Jewish community will fade,"
he says. ❑

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

69

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