A romp, The Importance of Being Jewish showcases playwright Rob Selzer’s insight and wit. For the past 30 years, architect Ray (Joe Tigel) has been happily married to couples’ therapist Rosh (Natalie Shostak). They are social Jews (as distinct from religious), but are delighted their strong-willed lawyer daughter Tara (Romi Freedman) is about to marry a fellow Jew. Israeli Leo (Mikki Palti) has a doctorate in computer science.
He is the son of Ilan (Raoul Salter) – who runs a successful laundry business – and his wife Kitty (Amelia Frid). Ilan and Kitty have travelled from Tel Aviv for the first get together with Ray and Rosh. When Ray sets eyes upon Kitty – who keeps Kosher and converted from Catholicism – there is immediate recognition. It is quickly clear why that is and then the question becomes how much Ray’s wife needs to know. To keep the peace, Ray believes in selective truth. Hijinks abound as the wedding itself is in peril.
The Importance of Being Jewish is a lighthearted, feel-good piece of entertainment that deals with Jewish stereotypes. Selzer has infused the work with some choice one-liners that generate plenty of laughs. It is material the cast can have plenty of fun with and that they do. Exaggerated personas are the name of the game. Rounding out the seven-person troupe is Daniel Teitelbaum as rollerblading young rabbi BB. His ruling will be critical if Tara and Leo are to proceed with the planned traditional, over-the-top Jewish wedding.
The pick of the performers is Natalie Shostak, whose style and delivery as Rosh are impressive. I also appreciated the take on Kitty by Amelia Frid. The set design by David Lampard transports us to the heart of the action, be it the backyard barbie, the dining room, the lounge or the kitchen. All are captured in a large single set, the centrepiece of which is a large, framed print of Ray and Rosh on their wedding day.
The Importance of Being Jewish is co-directed by Rob Seltzer and Steven Curtis (with input from creative advisors Gary Abrahams and Pip Mushin). Characterised by lively levity, the 70-minute production (plus 20-minute interval) is playing at Phoenix Theatre in Elwood until 21st August, 2022. *While attending, don’t forget to pick up a copy of the free, excellent, glossy, full-colour program for the show, which can also be downloaded.
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- Muriel’s Wedding The Musical (Her Majesty’s) – theatre review
- The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Saltpillar Theatre) – musical theatre review
- Powder Room (The MC Showroom) – theatre review
Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.