by: Sandi Durell
From the moment the five person cast comes out on stage, the audience is already laughing. Must be something in the Jewish mannerism that causes this phenomenon that says “I know you!” Well, Peter Gethers and Daniel Okrent sure knew their audience when they created this revue. And, you know what? You don’t even have to be Jewish to make with the guffaws.
Put three old Broadway, TV and film Jewish veterans together and it doesn’t take much. Multi-award winning Marilyn Sokol has that look and voice pattern that causes laugh combustion whenever she’s on stage, talking or not. It’s those facial expressions and whether the joke is funny, funnier or maybe even not so funny, you still can’t help but laugh. Take young ‘un, Bill Army, a new good looking guy in their midst who comes across Sokol and her daughter (for this skit) Audrey Lynn Weston, schlumpy, not too pretty. Mom, trying to marry her off says to the boy “I never saw you around here before.” He responds: “I’ve been away in prison for killing my wife.” She says “Oh, that means you’re single now.” And the audience roars.
And so it goes as deadpan Todd Susman’s delivery always tickles a funny bone, especially when he sings, or better yet, recites that goyisha song “Old Man River” – because it’s even funnier when the story is told by a Jew. Naturally, there are several Jewish mother jokes and throw the guilt jokes, all part of the ethnic tradition.
The revue is broken up into segments that include Marriage, Sex, Business & Money, Assimilation, Religion and lots of jokes about sex. Lenny Wolpe tells the one about the talking dog (I’m sure you’ve heard various interpretations of that one) and the one about the man who falls in love with his sheep (played by Sokol) and the punch line is “go walk the dog.”
Audrey Lynn Weston, the other young ‘un is given just as many guffaws as the rest of them. They go through these jokes, one after another, solo, as duets, or as an ensemble – badaboom! And they also sing songs by Tom Lehrer “Hanukkah in Santa Monica” and Harold Rome’s “I’m Not a Well Man” accompanied by Donald Corren on piano.
Backed by a moving video screen with various changing backdrops, whether it’s Dr. Saperstein’s office, a desert island, a door that appears to cleverly open and close, all to the credit of David Gallo’s set designs with the guiding quick-witted thinking Marc Bruni, director.
Sometimes the jokes are silly, most times they’re hysterically funny and the audience is laughing uncontrollably. The bottom line is if you’re looking for an afternoon or evening of pure fun, you’ll probably find it at “Old Jews Telling Jokes” at the Westside Theatre on West 43rd St. The running time is 1 hr. 20 min. – no intermission. 212 239-6200, telecharge.com