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Theater review - 'The Adventures of Hershele Ostropolyer'
By Yudi Lewis

Forget “Fiddler on the Roof”, “Hershele of Ostropolyer” is here, as brought to life by the talented Mike Burstyn, the unsung musical hero of the summer.


The national Yiddish theatre has brought together an all-star cast that shines onstage and reminds us of the timeless beauty of Yiddish. Brimming with wit that is reminiscent of Shalom Aleichem, and Klezmer overtures that literally make you want to clap your hands and tap your toes.  

“Hershele of Ostropolyer” is the tale of Berl (Dani Marcus) and Tsipke (Nimmy Weisbrod), young lovers who cannot tie the knot until they retrieve Tsipke’s “Bubbeh’s” wedding ring. The heirloom is held by the miserly Kalman (Itzy Firestone) who’s cold heart, and love for money has blinded him to the to the misfortune of others.  

Enters Hershele, our “shtetls” very own Robin Hood, complete with tattered coat and beat up sack, who "takes on the poor man's troubles" and vows that "all will be well and good". Hershele himself, once stung by Kalman’s cruelty, vows to not only get the much-needed ring back, but also ensure that Kalman will provide the funds for the entire wedding. Hershele then proceeds to drive the miser literally “meshuge”, Kalman seeing the error of his ways, delightfully sings a different tune.  

What follows is 70 minutes of sharp, quirky, and at times downright hilarious dialogue, aided by the lovable Dvoshe (Daniella Rabbani) an up and coming star in the Yiddish Theatre world, and the veteran talent Edward Furs who learned Yiddish for his role as Stanavoy, the town policemen. The performance would not have been complete without the light hearted antics of Genendl and Zaydl the innkeeper and her husband (Lori Wilner) and (Steve Sterner) respectively, who’s nutty dialogue, leave you smiling.  

You might not see any instrument yielding performers dangling from rooftops, but make no mistake  “Hershele of Ostropolyer” continuous the great tradition of Yiddish theatre that in the words of artistic director Zalmen Mlotek “will carry on till 120”.  

"The Adventures of Hershele Ostropolyer" continues through June 27 at the Baruch Performing Arts Center, 55 Lexington Avenue, at 25th Street; folksbiene.org or (646) 312-5073.

Posted on June 29, 2010
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