About the Play
Maurice Schwartz has been producing, acting and directing for the Yiddish Art Theatre for well on to twenty-six years. Giving four or five plays a year, the Art Theatre has many ample and effective productions to its credit as well as a long record of service to its own particular community. Its latest success is I. L. Peretz' The Three Gifts, a folk story told with music, dancing and dramatic action, which fills the big theatre on Second Avenue night after night with genial crowds not only of 'first generation' immigrants but of their children and grandchildren as well. The audience follows eagerly this tale of a musician who returns to earth to secure the 'three gifts' needed to buy his way into heaven. Above is one of the scenes of Joel's search which takes him to an inn in a Roumanian village where bandits kill a venerable Jew believing that the bag he clutches in his hand contains gold, when actually it is filled with soil from the Holy Land. Successive scenes show other martyrdoms, but the play has many moments of gaiety as well.
'The usual problems of direction and acting', writes Mr. Schwartz, 'were made more complex in The Three Gifts by the necessity of integrating realism with imaginative whimsy in an atmosphere as rich in folk piety as in sardonic wisdom.' H. A. Condell assisted, through his bold, stylized settings and costumes, in the realization of these differences, while Joseph Rumshinsky's music also bridged the various styles. Maurice Schwartz, besides staging and assisting in the dramatization, played the leading role of Joel, the Musician. -- from Theatre Arts, January 1946.
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