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THE SHTICK GOES ON

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by Cynthia Tavlin

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How long can Kids and Yiddish, the annual holiday show produced by the Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre, keep up the shtick without wearing out their welcome? Indefinitely it appears, as the company continues its energetic and comical tradition with Farmisht and Far-Fetched, a new family production which moved from midtown to the Upper West Side this year, playing Sundays until January 4, at the JCC of Manhattan. For those who grew up in households where the grownups didn’t speak Yiddish to keep adult conversations off limits to young ears, farmisht means befuddled, and the theme of this year’s production revolves around a group of travelers reconciling Jewish folk traditions with more modern times. Your grandparents may not have thought it important for you to understand their Yiddish conversations; however, Folksbiene feels quite the opposite, and strives to make the language accessible to adults and children through bilingual musical numbers and an extra large dose of humor. Farmisht and Far-Fetched begins on a clever note; a bit about cell phone users and the troupe, comprised of three adults and five young people, segues into their first musical number, “Mameloshn”, a play on Abba’s “Mamma Mia”. Throughout the production, the company uses a lot of simple, familiar tunes, such as “If You’re Happy and You Know It”, and “Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes”, to demonstrate in Yiddish concepts like opposite feelings and body parts. Other sequences mine popular culture for material, such as a hilarious spoof on Sonny and Cher called “I’ve Got You Beyz”; the current crop of reality TV shows are also given a Yiddish spin, in “Celebrity Fir Factor” and “American Aydl Didl-Daydl”. Fans of The Simpsons will be pleased to see the dysfunctional family starring in a Hanukkah sketch retitled "Di Shimshons”, with Heymish scarfing down the donuts instead of Homer. Since every song is presented in a bilingual fashion, you don’t have to know Yiddish to enjoy the show; however, familiarity helps as the quick pace of the production can send certain jokes and gags sailing over your head. Running a little over an hour in length without intermission, most preschool-age children in the audience made it through just fine. School age children will enjoy seeing teens perform on stage, particularly this accomplished bunch, as the specific talents of Zachary Mayer, Avram Mlotek, Elisha Mlotek, Nessa Norich and 8-year-old newcomer Aaron Mayer are incorporated deftly into the production.

Info: Where: The JCC of Manhattan is located at 334 Amsterdam Avenue at 76th Street. When: Farmisht and Far-Fetched runs Sundays, through January 4, at 11am, with an additional holiday performance, December 25, at 10am. How much: Tickets are $18 adults, $15 children 12 and under. For more info: (212) 307-7171; www.folksbiene.org


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