Theatre review: Did you hear the one about 'Old Jews Telling Jokes'? Funny

For the News-DemocratMay 22, 2014 

Laughter is a tonic we all can use more of, and "Old Jews Telling Jokes" provides enough light-hearted humor to tickle our funny bone during a pleasant outing.

The New Jewish Theatre's production, the first outside New York, lovingly pays homage to the Borsht Belt schtick that was prevalent on TV variety and talk shows in the 1960s and 1970s. But it also has a modern viewpoint, too, and creators Peter Gethers and Daniel Okrent don't care about being politically correct.

Without a two-drink minimum, the show's format emphasizes stand-up comedy but also includes a few sketches, framed by opening and closing musical numbers.

The droll performers gamely deliver the typical jokes about love, marriage, sex, religion, health, and the foibles of modern life. Stellie Siteman is Bunny and Johanna Elkana-Hale is Debbi, with Dave Cooperstein as Reuben, Craig Neuman as Morty and old ham Bobby Miller as Nathan. Their crisp delivery is crucial, and they time their punchlines well.

The material is for mature audiences, and they don't refrain from risque situations or bawdy language. Some of the jokes you've heard before. A few will be new. Funny is funny.

Director Edward Coffield has breezily staged the show, and it has a polished feel. This time around, the audience must be an important element, for without their chuckles and guffaws, it wouldn't succeed. So come ready to laugh.

The scenic and projection design by Peter and Margery Spack is splendid, with a clever neon set and vibrant graphics embellishing the accompanying visuals.

Framed photos of such legendary Jewish comedians as Alan King, Mel Brooks and Joan Rivers are hung on stage alongside contemporary comics Sarah Silverman and the late Gilda Radner.

New Jewish Theatre

Now through June 1

Wool Studio Theatre, Arts & Education Complex,

Jewish Community Center's Staenberg Family Complex

2 Millstone Campus Drive

Creve Coeur, MO 63146

(314)442-3283

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