There has been a reintroduction of shlemiel
literature into the Hebrew province, and through his bloodshot, bespectacled eyes, we can see how Zionism's utopian vision has capitulated to a more syncretic panorama.
Actors switch roles with a change of coats, the sages of Chelm include a black man and a woman, and in the cleverest stroke, Shlemiel
's wife (Rosalie Gerut) gets dressed for the day by stepping into a stiff petticoat that turns the slender actress into a barrel-shaped yenta.
The least concrete, most slippery, but perhaps also most ubiquitous way in which Goldstein's and Rakoff's work resonates with earlier and contemporary representations of Jews in North American literature and popular culture is in their construction of themselves as shlemiel
or nebbish protagonists.
That avant-garde pitch didn't go over well in Boca Raton, where Shlemiel
tanked while touring "a circuit with bagels and yuks and Mitzi Gaynor," recalls Gordan, an auteur choreographer/director from New York's performance art and dance world.
You're a shlemazl that's worse than a shlemiel
. You got no luck.
This was the brief period when the Jew became the modern Everyman, everyone's favorite victim, shlemiel
and secular saint.
A self-styled shlemiel
, he also becomes obsessed with Gabi, whose love-making groans--Oy oy oy, in Shwartz's humorous hearing of it--he can hear through the paper-thin wall that his apartment shares with hers.
In August, Vontress leaves New York for San Francisco to play one of the five sages of Chelm in Shlemiel
the First; he originated the role at A.R.T., where the musical, based on stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer, was developed.
He is on one level the Holy Shlemiel
in the American marketplace, a semi-satiric figure in Bellovian extremis, a wholly good person faced with the inhuman choice between making a killing and being killed.
To anyone who's followed the evolution of his long career, it doesn't seem the least bit odd that Gordon recently staged a play by Frisch or that he directed and choreographed a dementedly zany new musical, Shlemiel
the First, for Cambridge, Mass.'s American Repertory Theatre; that he conceived, directed and choreographed a revisionist look at com-media characters called Punch and Judy Get Divorced for the American Music Theater Festival in Philadelphia; or even that he's co-author (with his talented son Ain) of one of the best new American plays of recent seasons, The Family Business.
He showed that although Kafka described himself as a helpless shlemiel
on the job, in fact he was a superachiever: He used bureaucratic procedures to transform the Czech system of workmen's compensation into a system of accident prevention; he learned how mines and factories worked from the inside, fought the bosses, forced big changes, helped save thousands of workers' lives; he was probably the inventor of OSHA, and one of the most creative bureaucrats of the century.
International and domestic tours produced by three tracked theatres (Alley Theatre's presentation at the Venice Biennale of Tony Kushner's epic Angels in America and Robert Wilson's version of Hamlet, which went on to tour Europe; Goodman Theatre's European tour of Peter Sellars' production of Merchant of Venice; and American Repertory Theatre's seven-city tour of Shlemiel
the First) account for the bulk of this increase.
Granted, no other actor could have played Cliff Stern; and yet, here in particular, it's jarring to see America's most successful independent filmmaker take on the role of existential shlemiel
. There's a line near the end in which you can almost hear Woody Allen boast of his integrity and power: "You want a happy ending?" asks Judah Rosenthal.
Right at the start, Jesus helps the Romans crucify some shlemiel
, and the blood hits him smack in the eye.
In one of his monologues, Gray describes himself to a Hollywood producer as "a Huck Finn-Candide-type who gets into all these weird situations," and while this is clearly a joke, it's hard to avoid the feeling that, on some level, Gray really is trying to universalize his shlemiel
persona--to make us see him as the representative white middle-class American male of his times, a mythic innocent.