Jewish Journal


March 18, 2011

Everyone needs a happy ending (no, not THAT kind of happy ending)



Photo courtesy of esthertheplay.com.

My husband is pretty good natured. When I tell him we’re going to a community event that I’ve been invited to as a writer, and now as the editor of TRIBE magazine, David doesn’t ask too many questions. I give him a one-sentence summary of what the event is and he goes with it. Usually it turns out well.

Last month, I took him to the Matisyahu concert in Thousand Oaks, and although he was only vaguely aware of who the Chasidic reggae star was, he was happy enough to have a night out with his wife—a rarity since Matan was born 10 months ago. Matisyahu gave a stellar performance and David was blown away by his talent. Good night all around.

After this past Sunday, I think my husband will be more discerning about the events to which he allows me to drag him.

I was invited to see a Purim play, “Esther,” produced by a young local Israeli, Ellie Nahmani. I agreed to check it out and blog about it, and naturally, I figured my husband would accompany me as my date. (Who goes to a play alone? Maybe the same people who go to movies alone…not me.)

Ellie, a very sweet and eager young woman with a passion for theater, informed me that her debut production was for the whole family. I expected a kid-friendly performance, but, admittedly, I kind of glossed over that part when I informed David matter of factly that we were going to a play on Sunday morning. In my defense, the morning showtime should have tipped him off to the kind of show we were attending. But, my darling tends to be as trusting and unassuming as he is easy going. And Matan is our first child, so he isn’t quite hip to the parenting schedule yet.

We arrived at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks 5 minutes before showtime, which in my book is late. But as it turned out, and as I should have anticipated from an Israeli production, the tiny theater was still mostly empty and the show didn’t start for quite some time. We looked around. Nearly every adult in the theater had a toddler in tow, decked out in colorful Purim costumes.

David shot me a look that said, “What are we doing here?”

And then he said, “We should have brought Matan.”

I replied, “He’s too young. There’s no way he would have sat through an entire play quietly.”

David: “Yeah, but then I wouldn’t feel so dumb sitting here without a kid.”

Then came Tamar, a woman dressed in what I think was a Cinderalla costume gown, with a blond wig and an Israeli accent. She waved a sparkly wand and sang songs and pranced around the stage with the costumed kids. My husband slouched down in his seat, groaning.

I was anxious for the show to begin. The theater was freezing and we had rushed out of the house without coffee or breakfast and my stomach was grumbling almost as loudly as David was.

Finally, Tamar and her bubble machine exited the stage, and the play commenced. And to my relief, it was a rather cute show.

Ellie, who wrote and produced the modern-day interpretation of the Purim story, starred as Queen Esther—a humble, kind plain Jane type who wins the heart of the playful and arrogant King Ahashverosh and saves the Jews from Haman’s evil plotting.

Actor Michael Naishtut stood out as a surprisingly clever and nuanced Haman and Sheila R. Rose was hilarious as Sheshe, the king’s wise-cracking servant. With her endearing smile and just-barely-there Israeli accent, Ellie was absolutely adorable as Esther.

Clearly catering to the sippy cup set, the play was light and fluffy – silly and intentionally overdramatic at times – but with pop culture references to “Glee,” Lady Gaga and texting that were aimed at the accompanying adults. And a certain un-accompanying adult.

At one point during the show, David leaned over and whispered in my ear, “How long is the play?”

“I don’t know,” I replied impatiently. “I’m sure it’ll be over soon. Why?”

“Because for every minute of the play, I expect one minute of massage as compensation.”

Now, let me just say that David and I love those children’s animated movies and went to see “Despicable Me” and “Megamind” at the theater. He wasn’t embarrassed then to be seen without children. That’s because those movies are so clever and entertaining that they appeal to kids on one level and adults on a whole other level.

“Esther” didn’t quite succeed at that formidable task, but I have no doubt that the Spiderman in front of us and the Tinker Bell in the first row thoroughly enjoyed the play with its dancing girls, colorful costumes and happy ending.

And, quite honestly, with all the heartache and tragedies in the news of late, I too appreciated the happy ending.

“Esther” plays at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks through April 10; tickets are $18 presale, $23 at the door. For tickets, go to www.esthertheplay.com.

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