Friday, October 9, 2009

New Jewish Theatre's New Season: Review of Conversations With My Father

In our never-ending quest to expose some of the culture that St. Louis has to offer, we return to the New Jewish Theatre.

Conversations With My Father contains a lot of the classic "Jewish immigrant in New York" elements, including the tension between preserving the memory, identity and traditions of the 'old world' while trying to assimilate the language and culture of America.

The play provides quite a bit of symmetry, which takes the very Jewish form of examining the role of each generation against its predecessor and antecedent. We see how the father seeks to get away from everything Jewish, religiously or culturally, even as he is infuriated when his kids skip Hebrew school.

The NJT's production of the play was solid, and I mean that quite literally. Over the course of the play, the father throws chairs across the stage, pounds on doors, and smacks tables with billy-clubs. Aside from the build-quality of the stage elements, I found the acting to be quite good across the board. I was moved during some of the more climactic scenes, and while the play is a full 3 hours, it wasn't a long 3 hours.

The play made me think a lot about my grandparents, particularly my Brooklyn raised grandfather, who made the transition into the identity of a Jewish American. We got it pretty easy these days and are able to spend a lot more time thinking about identity, and discussing it, instead of fighting for or against it.

For those of us who grew up learning about our history, our music, culture, traditions, languages, and celebrations, Conversations With My Father is a throwback that, while not totally a feel good tale, certain evokes all of these elements.

The New Jewish Theatre is now in its 13th year, under the direction of Kathleen Sitzer. You can find out more, see upcoming shows, and book tickets at

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