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Writing for Us

A CurtainUp Review
The J.A.P. Show,

Jewish American Princesses of Comedy


Why do they make fun of Jewish women so much?— Jessica
Cuz they know we can take it—Cathy
Yea, but we can dish it out, too— Cory
Oh, yeah, we've been dishing it out for years!—Jackie

Jackie Hoffman, Cory Kahaney, Jessica Kirson, Cathy Ladman in The J.A.P. Show (Photo: Jaisen Crockett)
Ask anyone to make a list of the favorite building blocks for Jewish jokes and it's sure to include: Pushy mothers, demanding mothers. . . disdain for sex, especially as experienced with husbands, even if they are doctors and lawyers--the gold ring on the marital merry-go-round. . .obsessing about body weight, sickness and dying.

With a title like The J.A.P. Show, don't expect its four-star cast of stand-up comediennes to abandon these staple targets for Jewish comedy. And why should they? After all it's the comfort food familiarity of jokes relying on well-mined targets that is the foundation of Jewish and other ethnic humor's enduring and ever updatable appeal.

To give the show a theatrical hook, Cory Kahaney, the show's creator and one of the four "Princesses" dishing out their often bawdy and self-deprecating routines, has combined what is essentially a quadruple dose of stand-up comedy with a tribute to some of the funny ladies who are today's comedienne's forbears. Unless you're collecting social security Totie Fields, Belle Barth, Jean Carroll, and Pearl Williams may be just names to you, but not to worry. Each joke telling set by one of the four "Princesses" ends with a brief biography of one of these 1950s women, the narrative illustrated with film clips projected on hanging circles by video designer Aaron Rhyne and scenic designer Jo Winiarski. These entr'acte trips down memory lane are fun and funny but they're mere snippets since the show's meat and potatoes or brisket and kishkas belongs to Kahaney and her fellow hot NOW colleagues Jackie Hoffman, Jessica Kirson and Cathy Ladman.

Short as the illustrated narratives about the long gone comediennes are, they are tied together more than the live funny ladies' sets. The opening and closing solos (Kahaney and Landman) are the smoothest and most polished, though I couldn't help wishing that the one who told the joke about Asian men had been more quick on the improvisational draw and changed or eliminated what in the light of the Virginia college tragedy came off in the worst possible taste.

Jackie Hoffman, the only cast member well known to regular theater goers (she created one of the key roles in the long-running Hairspray on Broadway) kvetches, screeches and sings in her own inimitable fashion. However, her material is largely recycled from her popular shows at Joe's Pub. The one wild, anything-goes turn comes from Jessica Kirson, a big mama of a performer with a knack for physical shtick.

The Actor's Temple where the likes of Shelley Winters, several of the Three Stooges and Sophie Tucker at one time attended services is an apt venue for this modern Borscht Belt evening. On the other hand, and as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, put it, there's always an "on the other hand," this was established as an orthodox temple where women weren't even allowed to sit downstairs with the men—let alone stand on the bema and tell jokes that would make the rabbi and the congregation blush and yell "a Shande.". On the other hand (yes, another) any rabbi would be happy to see every seat of his synagogue filled as this one was on the night I was there.

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The J.A.P. Show, Jewish American Princesses of Comedy
Created by Cory Kahaney
Directed by Dan Fields
Cast: Jackie Hoffman, Cory Kahaney, Jessica Kirson, Cathy Ladman (Alternate at some performances: Sherry Davey and Julie Goldman)
Sets: Jo Winiarski
Projections: Aaron Rhyne
Lights: Jeff Croiter
Running Time: Approx. 90 minutes without intermission
Actors Temple Theatre, 339 West 47th Street, (212) 239-6200
From 4/07/07 to 5/27/07; opening 4/17/07
Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 8 PM, Wednesdays at 3 and 8 PM and Sundays at 5 PM.
Tickets: Weekdays, $49.50/ $29.50; Saturday, Sunday - $65/ $29.50

Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at April 8th performance

Closing in New York on 10/01/07 but continuing engagements in Miami and Palm Beach.
broadway musicals: the 101 greatest shows of all time
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©Copyright 2007, Elyse Sommer.
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