In this, the second annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in film, music, theater, exhibitions and books. Here we present five of the most important Jewish performances of 2010. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.
Hapless Hooligan in ‘Still Moving’
What happens when you put a prominent modern dance company in a room with one of the great innovators of the graphic novel? The answer in this case was “Hapless Hooligan,” a collaboration between Pilobolus Dance Theater and Art Spiegelman, creator of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Maus” series. Premiering this past July at the Joyce Theater, the vaudeville-esque piece included an animated sequence based on Spiegelman’s drawings, which was projected onto a backdrop for the dancers to interact with. Though somewhat unorthodox, “Hapless Hooligan” was a creative gamble that paid off.
Read the Forward’s review of ‘Hapless Hooligan in Still Moving’ here.
The Merchant of Venice
Al Pacino’s turn this past summer as Shylock in Shakespeare in the Park’s “Merchant of Venice” was so good that the production was not only taken to Broadway, but its run has now been extended through February. While the question of the play’s anti-Semitism has been endlessly debated, the Public Theater’s production doesn’t attempt to soften Shakespeare’s villain so much as confront “Merchant’s” offensive implications head-on.
Read the Forward’s review of ‘The Merchant of Venice’ here.
Deborah Margolin’s “Imagining Madoff” first entered the public consciousness when Elie Wiesel threatened to sue over his portrayal as the show’s second main character, causing Washington D.C.’s Theater J to cancel the production. Undeterred, Margolin re-named the Weisel character and took the play to StageWorks/Hudson in upstate New York, where it opened in July. Consisting mostly of dialogue between Madoff and his re-branded interlocutor (now “Solomon Galkin”), “Imagining Madoff” humanizes its titular character without sensationalizing or sentimentalizing his crimes.
Read the Forward’s review of ‘Imagining Madoff’ here.
Based on the true story of novelist Meyer Levin, who tried unsuccessfully to bring his adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary to the stage, “Compulsion” features Mandy Patinkin in the role of Sid Silver, a writer for whom Frank’s story has become a personal obsession. After a slightly shaky start at the Yale Repertory Theatre, “Compulsion” picked up steam at the Berkeley Repertory Theater in California before it comes to the Public Theater in New York this February.
Read the Forward’s review of ‘Compulsion’ here.
One of the gems of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave festival, this Icelandic adaptation of Kafka’s famous novella, with music by Australian musician Nick Cave, had all the makings of an exercise in sheer pretention. Fortunately, the case turned out to be otherwise. By casting the character of Gregor Samsa as a human being rather than as a vermin, as Kafka had it, “Metamorphosis” became a play about the psychopathology of Samsa’s bourgeois family, ultimately staying true to its inspiration.
Read the Forward’s review of ‘Metamorphosis’ here.