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A CurtainUp Review
Gimpel the Fool/The Lady and the Peddler

I am Gimpel the fool. I don't think myself a fool. On the contrary. But that's what folks call me.— Gimpel
Gimpel the Fool, now in its New York premiere at La Mama E.T.C, adapted, designed, directed and performed by Howard Rypp, is based on a short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer, translated from the Yiddish by Saul Bellow. It is about a fool who is easily manipulated by his more cynical and sophisticated neighbors. He is tricked into marrying the town slut and accepting the children she has with various lovers as his own. He takes her abuse for many years and even mourns her after she dies.

With only a few props on stage (a pail, a tombstone, a bakerís table) and Ron Wisemanís original music featuring Stuart Olsberg on clarinet, Rypp, with his mournful face and expressive voice, recreates the daily life of Jewish townsfolk before the Holocaust. Gimpel goes to work, plays with his children, consults the wise men and tries to live an upright life. All characters but Gimpel are offstage voices.

But despite the simplicity of this play and its production, its lessons are profound. In the end, it is Gimpel the fool who understand the transitory and unreal nature of life. Singer is telling us that success on earth may have nothing to do with eternal salvation, something fools know best.

The Lady and the Peddler, the other half of this double bill, is directed by Geula Jeffet-Attar and performed by Victor Attar and dancer/actress Ilana Cohen. It is based on a story by Nobel Prize winner S.Y. Agnon, adapted by Yosefa Even Shoshan and translated by Avraham Leader. It is a cautionary tale about a peddler who meets a strange lady living in the woods, sells her a knife and is so ensnared by her mystical charm that he marries her and forsakes his religion. Before long he finds out that this exotic Christian has devoured her previous lovers and it is only by returning to the faith that he can save himself.

The Lady and the Peddler is told mainly through dance and movement. The Lady is only heard as Guela Jeffet-Attarís offstage voice. The foreboding and forbidding mood is set by Yuval Mesnerís music and Uri Rubinsteinís excellent lighting. For a play with such a thin plot, The Lady and the Peddler goes on a bit too long. But Cohenís dancing and Mesnerís music are as enticing as the Lady herself.

Though originally written in other languates these tales about the consequences of evil and the virtues of faith in a world we do not completely understand are still intriguing and instructive.

Gimpel the Fool
Based on a story by Isaac Bashevis Singer
Translated by Saul Bellow
Adapted, designed, directed and Performed by Howard Rypp
Music composed and performed by Ron Wiseman
Featuring the clarinet of Stuart Olsberg
Costume Design: Svetlana Vishtloyk
Lighting Design: Uri Rubinstein
Running Time: 1 hour

The Lady and the Peddler
By S.Y. Agnon
Adapted by Yosefa Even Shoshan
Translated by Avraham Leader
Directed by Guela Jeffet-Attar
Cast: Victor Attar (Peddler), Ilana Cohen (Dancer/Lady). Geula Jeffet-Attar (offstage voice)
Music: Yuval Mesner
Designer: Rekefet Levy
Video: Hadas Ophrat
Lighting Design: Uri Rubinstein
Running Time: 1 hour
La MaMa E.T.C., 74A East Fourth Street, (212) 475-7710
From 1/19/12; closing 1/29/12
Thursday through Saturday at 7:30pm, Sunday at 2:30pm, added show Sunday 1/29 at 7:30pm
Tickets: $18/$13 seniors and students
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Jan. 19, 2012
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