Tuesday, October 16, 2018

THE OPEN GATE: Inventive New Musical About Jewish Life in Poland at the End of the 19th Century.

Cast photo by Steven Pisano

In 1964, Broadway theatergoers saw the first performance of Fiddler on the Roofthe much loved musical about life in the Jewish shtetl in czarist Russia. It was adapted from a series of stories written in Yiddish by Sholem Aleichem. At its center is the bigger-than-life character of Tevye, a man torn between the traditions of life as he had always known it -- tied to his upbringing, his community, and his religious faith -- and the incursion of the modern world into that life.  

Three years later, in 1967, while Fiddler was still filling seats on Broadway, another author writing in Yiddish, Isaac Bashevis Singer, published a novel titled The Manor, which also focused on Jewish life in Eastern Europe in the latter part of the 19th century. The Manor is a sprawling saga, this one centered on a Polish-Jewish businessman named Calman Jacoby, who, likewise, is caught is the intersection between two worlds. The Manor, however, weaves a far more complex and ambiguous tale, one in which the possibility of upward mobility is a temptation too hard to resist. 

Now, playwright David Willinger has adapted The Manor into a sprawling musical called The Open Gate, with music by Arthur Abrams, a cast of 17, and five musicians. Equity actor Joel Martin heads up the company in the central role of Calman Jacoby. 

Like Tevye, Calman is in the throes of a personal conflict between strictly adhering to the traditional values of his Jewish faith, and participating in the wider world outside the physical and metaphoric gates that both protect and isolate him and his wife and four daughters. The Open Gate is being touted as a "historical mosaic" about the tug-of-war between the simple and pious life on one side of the gate, and the intellectual and worldly temptations waiting on the other side. 

Photo by Steven Pisano

You can catch The Open Gate now through 
Photo by Stevan Pisano
October 27 at the Theater for the New City on 1st Avenue at 10th Street. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8:00, with matinees on Sundays at 3:00. 
Tickets are $20, discounted to $10 for seniors and students. They can be purchased by visiting www.smarttix.com or by calling 212-868-4444.


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