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Larry Littany Litt


What is a Jewish Conscience?

The Gospel According to Chaim by Mikhl Yashinsky
Directed by Dmitri Bartomi
Presented by New Yiddish Rep at
Theater for the New City
155 First Ave., NYC
Runs through Jan 7, 2024
Reviewed by Larry Littany Litt December 22, 2023

(L-R): MelissaWeisz, JoshuaHorowitz. Photo by QixinZhang

What is a Jewish conscience? How many passionate paths can a Jew confront? These are two questions that Mikhl Yashinsky's play "The Gospel According to Chaim" attempts to answer.

Director Dmitri Barcomi has cast three Jewish actors who embody the personal histories and schisms of the pre world war two war years. High anxiety and thoughts for family still trapped in the old countries dominate the times onstage.

Barcomi moves the low energy but amiably personal Gabe the Yiddish printer (Joshua Horowitz) around Mt. Sinai, a place we can't understand until we get there. But his need for an infusion of capital for major repairs leaves him open to almost any printing job.

Enter Gabe's print shop comes smartly dressed Chaim (Mikhl Yashinsky) the writer with an extraordinary manuscript needing a skilled Yiddish printer. Barcomi moves Chaim around Gabe like a tiger sniffing around a meal time prey. Chaim's objective isn't clear to Gabe who is tired of the declining Yiddish printing trade. However Chaim declares he has come to Gabe's rescue. Chaim has a grand plan to save Gabe and the Jewish world.

Strikingly dynamic yet with classic Jewish beauty Sadie (Melissa Weisz) stops into Gabe's shop to have a protest handbill printed. She is Gabe's longtime friend and cares for him both his business and his tired old soul. Gabe sees her as a Jewish activist protector with a real complaint against the media.

Chaim is in the shop when Sadie enters. She vaguely recognizes him as Gabe makes their introduction. Sadie's suspicion doesn't sway Gabe who needs the money Chaim is offering for the as yet unnamed printing job. The tension between the three characters builds to a startling but true climax and denouement. Can Gabe be the printer behind a New Testament in Yiddish? What does this action mean for his Jewishness?

It's at this reversal point that Yashinsky as playwright shines like a Chanukah menorah. And director Barcomi moves his spinning dreidal actors to their inevitable falls. This wonderful play based on a true story is filled with genuine emotions and superior acting.

This play is in Yiddish with excellent super translations. I understood and felt the actors often while looking away from the title projections. That’s how strong were the performers and script. This is a memorable theater night for any audience.


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