"Memories of the Shtetl" A Theatre Review
by Stan Marks of "Laugh Till You Cry"
Jack Felman's deftly written play Laugh Till you Cry, blending many aspects of Jewish life, was staged by the Descendants of the Shoah at Temple Beth Israel last Sunday.
Starring Felman, Lena Fiszman and Allen Brostek, the play gave an insight into the Holocaust through the eyes of a typical Polish yiddisher mamma from a bygone era.
The play was filled with humour, the love of family, the tragedy, traumas and impossibilities of a Jewish marriage, the relations between husband and wife, children and parents, and with daughters-in-law and sons-in-law.
There are some brief but hard-hitting mentions of the Holocaust, and particularly how parents have kept quiet about it.
Laugh Till You Cry tackles many serious issues such as how being a child of a survivor has affected the second generation. These are handled in an original, sincere, inoffensive and arresting manner.
For many members of the audience, the subject matter struck a personal chord. It was as if many were eavesdropping on aspects of their own lives.
As Lena Fiszman who gave a rewarding performance as the wife and mother explains, the real meaning of why Jews are described as the "chosen people" is because the schadchen chose the men and women for each other.
This was especially so after millions who would have wed each other were killed in the Holocaust.
Jack Felman gave a riveting performance as the Eastern European Jewish husband, family man and Holocaust survivor with a subtle-and times not so subtle-insight into Jewish family life.
He also looks at how the mother manipulates the rest of the family and her influence on all its members in a practice that can be traced back thousands of years.
At times Felman switched from Yiddish to half English and half Yiddish, which made it easier for those with a scant knowledge of Yiddish to appreciate the humour and some of the barbs, which may have been too truthful for a few people.
Allen Brostek was a warm, convincing and humorous interlocutor who contributed to the overall success.
Let's hope that in the future Laugh Till You Cry can be staged in Jewish day schools to help spread the message.
Postscript: "Laugh Till You Cry" has been performed in Melbourne eight times and three times in Sydney to approx. 3,500 people since the beginning of 2000 and we hope will be performed again interstate later this year.