Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
The Schmooze

Remembering Montreal in ‘Lies My Father Told Me’

The musical “Lies My Father Told Me,” The National Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene’s most ambitious production to date, boasts an energetic talented cast of seventeen and a set by John Dinning worthy of a Broadway production.

Based on the works of screenwriter/activist Ted Allen, it is set in 1920s Montreal’s Saint Urbain street. Originally written in English, it had been translated into Yiddish by Canadian Yiddish theater legend Dora Wasserman, mother of Folksbiene’s executive director Bryna Wasserman.

Because the musical’s characters are but a decade-and-a-half removed from the Yiddish-speaking immigrants I encountered when I came to Montreal as a child in 1941, I can still recall that much of the time they spoke in Yiddish which is why — in my head — I heard some of the dialogue — and the songs in particular — in mame loshn.

Bryna Wasserman Image by Karen Leon

“Lies’” narrator David (Joe Paparella) ruefully recalls his childhood self as portrayed by amazing ten-year-old Alex Dreier who can sing, dance and acts up a storm with moments of heartbreak that will leave you farklempt.

Little David felt he was forever being lied to—by his parents in particular—sought comfort with his grandfather Zaida deliciously portrayed by Chuck Karel. With Tevye-ish charm, Zaida — whom David accompanied as he trolled Montreal’s back alleys buying and selling rags and discards — offers his grandson mini lessons in how to maneuver his parents’ emotional mine field.

A Talmud-quoting rationalist, Zaida comforts David between the flare-ups of his ambitious want-to-get-rich quick callous father (Jonathan Raviv) and his loving but ineffectual mother Annie (Russell Arden Koplin). David’s other refuge from reality is Ferdl, the off-stage nag who pulls his grandfather’s wagon and to whom he is devoted.

The neighborhood’s post immigrant cosmos includes — among others — a local prostitute Edna (Leisa Mather), Mrs. Tanner (Renee Bang Allen) a nasty busybody and a Marxist tailor (Gordon Stanley).

Adapted and sensitively directed by Bryna Wasserman, with musical direction by Michael Larsen, music, lyrics and orchestrations by Elan Kunin and choreography by Merete Muenter with music supervision by Folksbiene Artistic Director Zalmen Mlotek.

Don’t miss. “Lies” will resonate long after you leave the theater.

“Lies” will be playing through December 15 at Baruch Performing Arts Center, 55 Lexington Avenue at 25th Street. (646) 312-5073. nationalyiddishtheatre.org

Engage

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.