Gwen Orel


Manipulating Shostakovich

By Gwen Orel

Manipulating Shostakovich
A wall comes to life. Arms appear in what had seemed like empty black suits hanging on them. The seven actors in the company, in evening dress, whom we’ve seen singing, playing with pieces of paper, join hands with the arms. Together the actors and the limbs on the wall do a kind of Hora. Later, a 17-foot high puppet of a babushka embraces, and menaces, a little clown. The clown is composer Dmitry Shostakovich. It’s like something from Dr. Seuss. It’s like a dream.Read More


Less Than Actual Abraham Joshua Heschel

By Gwen Orel

Less Than Actual Abraham Joshua Heschel
Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) was a fascinating individual. Too bad Colin Greer’s play, “Imagining Heschel,” is such a yawn.Read More


'Shlemiel the First' Just as Good the Second Time

By Gwen Orel

'Shlemiel the First'  Just as Good the Second Time
Is there room for a klezmer musical on Broadway? I think so. The band for “Shlemiel the First,” led by the Folksbiene National Yiddish Theatre’s Zalmen Mlotek, is so good that during the exit music a sizeable portion of the audience drifted down toward the pit instead of up to the exits. Costumed as an Old Country klezmer band, they even march onstage sometimes, but it’s at intermission and afterward that they really wail. And that is terrific stuff, particularly Dmitri “Zisl” Slepovitch’s clarinet, Yaeko Miranda Elmaleh’s violin and Mlotek’s keyboard. Hoo boy, good.Read More


Puppet Golem Strikes Again

By Gwen Orel

Puppet Golem Strikes Again
The Golem was created, legend says, to protect Prague’s Jews. Things didn’t exactly work out right and a new puppet production eloquently tells the story on stage.Read More


Big Clay Man, Writ Small

By Gwen Orel

Big Clay Man, Writ Small
The story of the Golem has been told in literature, film and theater, including a puppet production created in 1997 by the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre. Now that show is back as part of La Mama Experimental Theatre Club’s 50th anniversary season, featuring music by The Klezmatics trumpeter Frank London. Unusually for the company, the show is danced as much as it is spoken. The Arty Semite caught up with writer-director Vít Hořejš and composer Frank London to ask about reviving the story of the clay man.Read More



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