Old Jews Telling Jokes
A solid but unspectacular Jewish comedy revue
|Royal George Theatre presents|
|Old Jews Telling Jokes|
Review by Keith Glab
Well, you can’t exactly go into a performance of Old Jews Telling Jokes and claim that you didn’t get what was promised. A cast of five shoots Jewish-flavored jokes at the audience rapid fire. The show is structured so that the jokes fall under headings from birth through sex, marriage, money, and doctor’s visits to finally old age, retirement, and death.
A twisting LED screen upstage provides most of the set, though a few other bells and whistles get included. Two of the cast members – Dara Cameron and Alex Goodrich – aren’t actually old, which is the closest thing to a surprising twist as you’ll get here. It’s sort of a Jewish comedy revue, complete with opening and closing songs and an interlude singalong of Tom Lehrer’s “Hanukkah in Santa Monica”.
As you might expect, some of the jokes land very well and others fall flat, but most of them elicit at least muted chuckles from the audience. Although the show purports to reinvent and pay tribute to classic jokes of the past and present, I was not familiar with any of them prior to the show. At least not consciously. On a couple of occasions, you can guess the punch line before it is delivered. This explains why Marc Bruni directs the cast to pace the material as quickly as they do; if the audience gets ahead of the joke, it loses its punch. That said, some humor is also lost because of how quickly the jokes are delivered. Timing is essential to comedy, and in this case, the timing feels off by just enough to prevent an evening of big laughter.
Old Jews Telling Jokes brings in a crowd that doesn’t ordinarily see live theatre, and for that it has my support. I got in some laughs and the pacing meant that nothing overstayed its welcome. Nevertheless, I can’t help but think that if I’d paid $50 for this 80-minute revue, I’d have come away very disappointed. You can find improvised comedy all around Chicago that provides bigger laughs at a fraction of the price. This show might want to take a few pointers from improv and develop a more organic structure with perhaps even a few callbacks thrown in. Or perhaps that’s just my personal preference. As they croon in the opening song, “there are moments when it’s kosher for a Jew to be a ham.”
Old Jews Telling Jokes continues through February 16th at Royal George Theatre, address (map), with performances Tuesdays-Fridays at 7:30pm, Saturdays 5pm and 8pm, Sundays 2pm and 5pm. Tickets are $50-$70, and are available by phone (312-988-9000) or at Ticketmaster.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More info at OldJewsTellingJokesOnStage.com. (Running time: 80 minutes, no intermission)
Photos by Dan Rest
behind the scenes
Marc Bruni (director), David Gallo (set and video design), Jeff Croiter (lighting), Alejo Vietti (costumes), Peter Fitzgerald (sound design), Steve Channon (animation), Adam Wachter (musical supervision and arrangements), David Ruttura (asst. director), Lucia Lombardi (production stage manager), Dan Rest (photos)