Who ever heard of Sholom Rabinowitz? Probably no one reading this. But change that to Sholom Aleichem, and the recognition bells begin to chime. The greatest of Yiddish writers and often called “the father of modern Yiddish literature,” this was an author who got to the core of humanity by poking fun at the simple folk who inhabited his life. These poor but unaccountably happy people formed the basis for the bittersweet life which the average Jew of his time lived. For these were a people who were on the constant move, hoping to avoid the very negative consequences of staying in one place too long. A prolific writer who never slowed down, even in his later years, Sholom Aleichem was himself a fascinating character who might have come right out of one of his own tales. Set to music, the talented performers from the Santa Monica Playhouse tell his story with compassion, humor, songs, and pure fun.
Born in the Russian Ukraine in 1859, Sholom Aleichem was anything but a “peace be with you” kind of guy. In fact, he became a sort of folk hero as readers from everywhere began to devour his writings. Although ALEICHEM SHOLOM recounts his life from only 1913 to 1914, little flashbacks pop up here and there to fill in the blanks. And the occasional tune keeps the mood light and airy while adding to his optimistic perspectives on life. For the financiers in the audience, it should be noted that Sholom was probably the worse dabbler in the stock market ever. He managed to lose a few fortunes by spending more time on writing that keeping track of the market.
Happily for audiences, Chris DeCarlo does not act the role of Sholom. He has become the reincarnation of Sholom as the writer goes on speaking tours touting his works – while his wife spends more time asking his publishers for the money he is earning than taking in the view. Evelyn Rudie does a superb job of portraying Sholom’s formidable wife, torn between the practical and the esoteric. For she is a nascent feminist who works as a trained dentist – a female dentist in the nineteenth century! – with her earnings helping to keep a large family afloat while Sholom hobnobs with his countrymen gathering stories to tell.
SHOLOM ALEICHEM is based on the writings and letters of Sholom Aleichem and adapted for the stage by the talented pair who portray the author and his wife in this production. Evelyn Rudie, Emery Bernauer, and Sholom himself are credited with words and music. Skillfully helmed by Arthur R. Tompkins with musical direction by Linn Yamaha Hirschman, SHOLOM ALEICHEM is a memorable musical tapping into the life and times of the first author who wrote in Yiddish (rather than Hebrew) and eventually won the hearts of people all over the world. Ashley Hayes’ costumes keep the era in mind, while Cydne Moore’s choreography, James Cooper’s set and lighting, Victor Sonora’s cute and clever graphics, and The Attic Room’s sound make this a memorable production.
ALEICHEM SHOLOM runs through September 23, 2018, with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays and at 3:30 p.m. on Sundays. The Santa Monica Playhouse is located at 1211 Fourth Street, Santa Monica, CA. Tickets are $35. For information and reservations, call 310-394-9779 ext. 1 or go online.