Sunday, February 10, 2013

25 Questions For A Jewish Mother—Triangle Productions—NE Portland


Everybody Has A Jewish Mother

This two-character comedy runs through February 24th in their space at The Sanctuary at Sandy Plaza, 1785 NE Sandy Blvd.  It is written by Judy Gold and Kate Moria Ryan and directed by Donald I. Horn (Triangle’s Artistic Director).  For further information on this show and their Season, go to www.tripro.org or call 503-239-5919.

So, if you’re not Jewish, why go to a show about Jewish mothers (you may ask yourself)?  Because, every culture has a Jewish mother, so there will be many things you’ll find you have in common.  I speak from experience. 

I went with an Italian girl for awhile and her parents were from the “old country.”  One day, we had tickets to an event.  Her mother called up and said that her grandmother’s friend’s doctor’s wife (are you following this?) had died and she was to come to the Italian-type Wake for her.  We didn’t go.  Her mother wouldn’t speak to her daughter for two weeks because of that.  Now, is that a Jewish mother, or what?

The POV of the play is from the author herself, Judy Gold (Ritah Parrish), so it is autobiographical.  She confides in the audience, through most of the play, about dealing with being a woman, a mother, gay, a comedian, and being Jewish.  And, being a daughter, herself, she has to deal with her mother, as well.  Society is often not kind for those who step out of the norm, or are not in the majority, as she relates.  There are about eight other characters she connects with, all played by Wendy Westerwelle.

The story is told with humor, but often with an underlying hurt.  As depicted, you cannot find the smiles in life without knowing tears.  Most comic actors are equally good tragedians, e.g. Robin Williams.  Ms. Gold is frank about her journey, sharing with the audience the reactions of people when she wants to birth a child, as her partner does (and they do).  Or the sometimes heated exchanges with her mother.  She relates that she wants to be a mother but not to become her mother.  That sentiment is identifiable to all cultures.

Some of the more vivid images are, when a character has a life-long admiration for Eleanor Roosevelt because she thought she was Jewish.  Or, when Ms. Gold relates about not being read the typical children’s fairy tales when she was a child.  Instead, she was read The Diary of Anne Frank, with pop-up tabs.  And the Chinese lady that loved her Jewish mate so much, she became a Jew, herself.  And then had to deal with prejudice from two fronts.  And more revealing gems, all told with humor but often with a serious side.

The focus of the piece, of course, is the two genuine Jewish Jewels of the stage, Ms. Parrish and Ms. Westerwelle!  The two of them alone, are worth the price of admission.  They are both long-time veterans of the stage, comedy and improv.  Ritah begins the show by talking directly with the audience and from that moment on, she has the audience in the palm of her hand.  Wendy slips easily and completely into each of the eight characters she portrays, including a man, a Chinese woman, Judy’s mother, et. al., and she does it all with merely a change of a hat or scarf.  And Mr. Horn’s perception of people, as weaved through his actors, spot on.  Pure artistic genius, from all of them!

What are some of the characteristics of a Jewish mother, one may ask?  From my perspective—a guilt complex; being kosher; unconditional love of family, in spite of everything; and FOOD.  What are the 25 questions…?  You need to see the show for that as they are all listed in the program.  And what message can one take away after seeing this show?  Actually two, I believe.  One is a question with no definable answer:  Why do people hate us so much (ask by a child)?  The other, we all have a story.  Added to that would be, we all need to be active listeners to other people’s stories, as well.

Both these young ladies continue to be active in the Arts.  Ms. Parrish teaches at the Portland Metro Arts and continues to perform.  Ms. Westerwelle has written a play, Medicare-fully Fabulous, which will be performed next season at Triangle.  And Triangle announces their next season at a Free event here on April 15th at 7 pm (food provided).  Also they are bringing back the highly successful, Avenue Q (which I highly recommend, see my review of it in this blog).  The dates are June 13th-29th.  Don’t miss it!

I recommend this show.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.