Last week, playwright Donald Margulies, The Manhattan Theater Club and The Forward weekly newspaper announced the winners of a contest they sponsored on the topic of "What It's Like Growing Up Jewish in New York."
You can read the winning entries at www.forward.com. I regret to say you will not find my name among them (what do they know?). Still, my great consolation is being able to share my account with you:
Growing up Jewish in New York as the children of refugee émigrés, as the first generation born since the Holocaust, was, for me and my playmates on West End Avenue, like living a Mittel European version of the American dream. Anything (good) was possible; anything (bad) could never happen again.
The French box office workers were decidedly underwhelmed when Jewish American playwright Donald Margulies arrived for the opening of his "Dinner With Friends" at the Comedie des Champs-Elysees in Paris last year. Impatient with his pidgin French, they brusquely shooed him aside to wait on native patrons. "It was just so French," notes Margulies, who was once dubbed "my Jewish playwright" by impresario Joe Papp. "They knew who I was. They just didn't have any time for me."
What makes this familiar setup fresh and involving is Margulies' wise, funny, wry dialogue and Lavin's strong performance.
A play with both wit and heart is a compelling combination, and it's one that playwright Donald Margulies' pulls off in his mostly rewarding "Collected Stories."
"Stories" drew critical praise and a 1997 Pulitzer Prize nomination following it's world première at Costa Mesa's South Coast Repertory. Happily, in director Gilbert Cates' current Los Angeles production at the Geffen Playhouse, the play's intelligence and emotional power remain intact.