Zisele at Luminato festival

Luminato 2009: Zisele a Yiddish Cliche

Zisele, Tel Aviv's acclaimed Beit Lessin Theatre troupe that performed during Luminato this past week, put on a show that appeals more to your Bubbe or Zaidie than you and your girlfriend.

This show has the potential to appeal to a larger demographic, but at the less than half-sold performance Thursday night at the Jane Mallett Theatre it was chiefly grandparents in attendance. Perhaps that's why they cranked the volume so high.

Zisele features seven zaftig dancers prancing about the stage to canned klezmer music, dressed in 1940's-era garb, portraying naughty school children and their disapproving mothers. Where were their fathers in all of this?

It's not until well into the 55-minute performance that we hear anything out of the mouths of the troupe. But when they do, they show us they can sing just as well as they can dance. So why don't they sing more?

A handful of empty picture frames hang on the black velvety stage curtains add nothing to the set design. And the music could be elevated by a live ensemble to keep it fresh.

One of the more amusing moments comes with a spirited Cheery Bim duet with the twin brother-and-sister act, while the performer portraying their mother pretends to accompany them on a squeezebox.

I found it endearing watching the extended bathing scene, where the girls each sit dressed in their bloomers and undershirts, sitting in large buckets, getting scrubbed by their mothers. But the boy's stage presence feels like an afterthought. He just sits on his own at the back of the stage with a bunch of towels.

The bar mitzvah scene, which starts out with a welcome reading of a thank you note from the boy to his mother, goes on way too long and is rather cliched. But it gets the yentas in the audience engaged, clapping along to Hava Nagila.

This would make for a more suitable ending scene. As it is, the show lacks much cohesion or dramatic arc. Still, it sure aims to please the older folks in attendance.

Photo courtesy of Luminato.


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