By: Isa Goldberg
April 24, 2018 – In this small stage musical, Goldstein, a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, grapples with his feelings about his parents, his family, and growing up. By reinventing the fictions that he heard as a child; Louis, the charming Zal Owen, attempts to weed out the family lies, and deceits, to achieve an understanding of himself, and his heritage.
According to his grandparents, “We’re honest as the day is long./We’re loyal merchants to the working classes.” And that honesty, it seems, was maintained by keeping secrets; it was pragmatic, and guaranteed control for the ruling class – one’s elders.
Traversing from present to past and back again, the characters reveal their motives, hopes, and ambitions. We meet Louis’ Aunt Sherry (Megan McGinnis), telling her mother that she’s received a scholarship to medical school. Sadly, Zelda (Amie Bermowitz) responds with advice on how to find a husband. As the lyric goes, “Boys get long days filled with meaning. Boys get contacts; girls get cleaning.”
Charlie Schulman’s book warmly, and humorously evokes the ongoing issues in family life that keep us all from fulfilling ourselves. In fact, the stigma of being a woman turns into the stigma of being considered too womanly – a vice that Louis faces as a young gay man. All of it is shrouded in the fear of second class citizenship – whether it’s because you’re a Jew, an immigrant, a woman, or a gay person. And it’s all song through in Michael Roberts’ ballads.
Through the three generations of Goldsteins, the musical traverses time, from the early 20th century when Louis’ grandmother immigrated, through war time, and the holocaust in Europe, to contemporary New York. As each of the generations inherits the flaws of the past, they also learn from them, and strive for a little more humanity.
With veteran actors, Megan McGinnis, who transforms from youth to old age, and Amie Bermowitz whose embodiment of a Jewish mother is equally cutting and adorable, the show moves gracefully. As Louis’ grandfather, Jim Stanek (Louie) is also outstanding.
It’s epic schmutz, which will, hopefully, find a following among musical fans.