Philip Roger Roy and Dana Matthow’s production of Daniel Okrent and Peter Gethers’ Old Jews Telling Jokes was definitely comedic, but in a different way.
This show was not comedic with the intent of escapism, but rather as a celebration -- a love letter to some of the greatest Jewish comedians of the past and to Jewish culture itself. With that, came an incredibly warm sensation of community in the audience, making me feel as though we were all family members watching old home videos together.
The set was minimalistic and consisted of a blue stage floor with three pink chairs. The chairs were used effectively throughout the show, creating appropriate settings for each bit without drawing too much attention away from the performers.
With regards to the performers, although everyone had a part in creating a relatively modern atmosphere, the two that stood out to me the most were Reuben (played by Alan Kliffer) and Morty (played by Allan Price). Kliffer’s performance not only made for an incredibly vibrant concoction of characters, but it also reminded me how important character really is when it comes to performing live comedy. His vibrant presence created a rainbow of different colors, all of which showcased incredibly outlandish personalities while doing something unique with each one. Price’s performance stood out very similarly, although it mostly shone through his role as an older Jewish man on his deathbed, presenting not only the wit, but also the depth of his character.
The real glue that brought the jokes together were the story segments throughout the performance. Without giving away too much, I found that these segments not only succeeded in bringing the audience together for a more intimate experience, but they also worked well as a means of contextualizing the humour and justifying the characters’ presence.
All in all, I’d say that the show was most definitely a pleasant surprise, and I’d recommend it to anyone who is not only looking for a night of laughter, but also a theatrical deli sandwich filled with heart.
Old Jews Telling Jokes is playing at the Randolph Theatre until Dec. 6.