If one is looking to end their day on a “high note”, to laugh and forget about all the negatives of the day, then I have just the prescription for you. A bowl of chicken soup and a glass of 2 cents plain ( seltzer) or even better a chocolate phosphate and then a trip to The Roayl George Theater on North Halsted for ninety minutes of great, well, maybe not great Jewish Humor in a wonderful little revue created by Peter Gethers and Daniel Okrent, called “Old Jews Telling Jokes'”. Let’s face it, the Jewish population is where a great many of our comedians come from- who better to laugh off the depression and hurt that was caused to them?
While many in the opening night audience were familiar with a lot of the jokes, many very old, and some even older, luckily due to age, they have forgotten the punch lines. The cast of this production which has already been extended through the holidays is sparkling, although only the female performers are of the Jewsih faith, the three men being gentile, but very gentle to their playing the old Jews as they tell stories and jokes. Yes, some of the skits are a bit long in the tooth, but with the great delivery of the lines by Chicago favorites, Gene Weygandt, Alex Goodrich and the incredible Tim Kazurinski ( who sure seems Jewish), young Dara Cameron and the ever young Renee Matthews, it appears Chicago has a winner!
This whole idea/concept came out of people sending in their stories/jokes and from this a book was created and then the off-Broadway production. Yes, the jokes are “Jewish” in nature, but many can easily be told with different names and vocal inflections which would make them fit another ethnicity. But, don’t let the title get to you, it is the fast pacing of the performers, directed by Marc Bruni, that gets you waiting for the next joke, story. My rating for the performers is a definite.Oh, yes, there is some music in the show-composed by Adam Gwon and when you enter the theater, some oldies but goodies that will make you walk down memory lane to your visits to Oakton Manor,South Haven, Brown’s or the catskills!
The theater at The Royal George ( this is the Main stage) is designed for smaller shows and this fits the mold. No matter where you sit, you will be able to see the actors and the video screen that is used to move the stories/skits around. Seeing as this show has already been extended to next year, I am pretty sure that there will be cast changes along the way, so my suggestion is to hurry up and see this cast- the chemistry is delightful and the two younger “Jews” ( as we will call them) Dara and Alex fit to perfection. Again, Wegandt is always a delight to watch, Kazurinski is amazing and Matthews , well I found my self “Kvelling” ( which means to be in heaven with happiness) as I watched her take on the material as if this was written for her. I know that you will walk away with a tear in your eye from all the laughter you will have shared with those around you for 90 minutes ( no intermission) and guess what- you don’t have to be Jewish!
I suggest, since there is some language and some adult/blue humor, this is not for the kids. When you eneter the theater, your program will appear to be a menu, encased in plastic like the local deli. I thought about this as well- if you go to a Jewsih restuarant/deli on a Sunday morning an dlisten to the groups of men talking at several tables, you will find “Old Jews Telling Jokes”