Jenkay LLC WEJ Productions LLC
Written by and Starring
Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson
407 West 43rd Street
With Cheryl David, Lorry Goldman, Irina Pantaeva,
Jackie Tohn, and Gerry Vichi
Director: John Tillinger
Set Design: Patrick Fahey
Costume Design: Cynthia Nordstrom
Lighting Design: Mike Baldassari
Sound Design: Kevin Lacy
Production Manager: Terry Jackson
Stage Manager: Jeff Benish
Marketing: Leanne Schanzer Promotions, Inc.
Press: Keith Sherman & Associates
General Management: Richards/Climan, Inc.
Associate Producers: John Ballard, Steve Boulay, David Elzer, Epstein/Roberts, Martha R. Gasparian, Kanar/Dickler, Brian Meltzer, Elsa Daspin Suisman, Lawrence Toppall, Helaine Weissman
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 17, 2004, Matinee
Brian Fogel and Sam Wolfson, who have literally added their mothers’ home phone numbers to the show promotions and Playbill, are two of the most original and outrageously funny writer/actors in the current Broadway/Off-Broadway scene. Fogel and Wolfson have encapsulated the Jewish singles scene in New York and all large American cities with a spoof of J-Date, Passover, interracial marriage, and even the shofar (Ram’s horn, used for Jewish High Holidays) in the synagogue. In fact, Jewtopia provides definitions, for the non-Jewish crowd, of the Jewish Holidays, so they can “relate” to the skits. Jewtopia opened in LA, originally for six weeks, but ran for sixteen months. The mannerisms, props, wigs, accents, and references are so nouvelle vague and au courant, that they eclipse the original Jackie Mason (who used to be funny) and all Jewish humorists combined.
My guest, who is not Jewish, and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of every skit. The theme revolves around one 30 something Irish single, Chris O’Connell (Brian Fogel) pretending to be Jewish, so he can marry a Jew and never make another decision for the rest of his life, and his very Jewish friend, Adam Lipschitz (Sam Wolfson), not only teaching him Jewish traits, but actually taking lessons from this “new wave” Jew. Jewtopia has jokes about a mother, who fixes up her son with her gynecologist, about non-Jewish fiancées, about the Jewish obsession with distributing plane itineraries, about Jews always saying, “I love you” to relatives at the end of phone calls, about all the action characters that Jewish singles try to be on the internet, about temple mixers, about circumcision, and much, much more, but why ruin the surprises.
Lorry Goldman, as an “eager” Jewish single at a mixer, is incredible, and later plays Dennis Lipschitz, the passive, Passover father. Cheryl David, as Arlene Lipschitz, the pushy, inquisitive mother, is indescribably adorable and brilliant. Jackie Tohn, as the “bimbo” single and the dysfunctional Lipschitz sister, is over the edge funny. Irina Pantaeva, as the fiancée Rachel, plays her non-Jewish, tall, thin role with perfection. Gerry Vichi, as the aggressive Rabbi and lewd, perverted Grandpa, must have spent a lot of time with Jewish friends. (Program notes mention a prior role in A Christmas Carol.)
This is a cast of actors’ actors. It’s hard to believe that Fogel and Wolfson were being trained as lawyers, when they switched gears to create this show. Then again, we could do lawyer jokes, but maybe that’s their next show. Kudos to John Tillinger, Director, for the terrific timing and sensational setups. I hope to see this show again. Even if you’ve heard the jokes, seeing them presented is worth the second trip to Westside Theatre/Downstairs. And, while you’re there, you might pick up tickets for I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, which I did see twice, at Westside Theatre/Upstairs.