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This review was written by Leon Fogelman for the Yiddish Forward newspaper, and it was first printed for the November 11, 1932 edition. Here it is:
Skulnik becomes the central figure, not only because of the special plays that are performed there, and because of the special roles that he plays in them, but also because of the fact that his acting itself attracts much more attention than the acting of all the other actors in the theatre.
Also in the new play that is now appearing in the Hopkinson Theatre in J. Alkon's comedy, "Rooms to Let," we see the same: Skulnik entirely dominates the stage. As he descends from the stage, the audience awaits his arrival with great interest.
I came out to see the new play at the first performance, when it still does not feel like they are properly playing together; one must therefore foresee and forgive some weaknesses both in the performance and in the play.
It is a drama of life, with the tragic and comic sides, which life possesses. It is an image of a family that lives in poverty, a labored life of renting out rooms for borders. Had the borders paid, it would still have been half the trouble. But they are lazy to pay, and the proprietor has been around for many years. It is especially difficult for her to make a living because of this, that her husband, Charlie, is a loafer who carries himself about with silly, empty dreams. His latest dream, with which he carries himself around, is to buy a telescope and to make a great business with it, showing the public the stars in the heavens. Incidentally, an eclipse is also expected, and this completely distorts the head of poor Charlie. Along with his aroyskelfer, with the old man Zavel, who is also a boarder in the house without paying; Charlie, the air-head, traipses around the streets and over his house a tsutrogener, a tsutumelter and building plans.
In truth Charlie is a type of Menakhem Mendl in a little and exaggerated form. Like Sholem Aleichem's Menakhem Mendl, he is also comical and touching in the luft-shleser, which he built. His wife, the passionate, good-natured Rose, believes, you see, not in his plans, and laughs at them. The yoke of maintaining the house bears itself with the help of her eldest daughter Clar , who is divorced from her husband. The younger daughter, Gertrude, is a frivolous girl, who leads a suspicious place of life.
It goes without saying that love is also implanted here (how could it be painted differently, when two girls and several friends are hanging out in the house.)
The ending of the entire story is not anything happy, nothing like in a comedy; the young girl, Gertrude, is suddenly killed in a "raid" on a speakeasy of the rich border, who maintains a marriage with the older daughter. This is happening right now, when Charlie, the owner, looks like he's already hooked up to his telescope and chooses to do his golden business.
The ending, as we see, is tragic: and this is unexpected given the character and course of the comedy.
The more or less clearly defined types in the drama are Charlie, with his wife, Rose. The others are like shadows, in which one has to give blood and flesh in order for them to receive life. They sometimes miss words from their mouths, and generally they lack actions from which you should be able to recognize them more closely.
But in the moments when it comes down to the stage, the young writer shows a certain sense of stage for dramatic action, and for a lively dialogue, for a conversation that is sprinkled with humor.
The play, one might say, bears out on the
shoulders of Menasha Skulnik, with his humorous portrayal of
Charlie, the fantasizer. Besides humor, he gives a certain
touching, human importance to the Menakhem Mendl type.
The majority of actors are entirely pale in their roles; and partly it is not their fault; it is impossible to breathe life into a shadow.
What could William Epstein raise with his soles, which only held Charlie in one hand?
What could Bennie Zeidman make with his role of a bootlegger, about whom we know no more, that he has some psychosis and is surrounded by women?
It is the same with Herman Yablokoff, who the entire time must only sing the "Otchi Chornia" and wander around the house.
Also Bella Mysell in the role of the frivolous younger girl, has less with which to play; here she cannot , by the way, use her fine voice in a song number, of which she is a creature.
Frances Weintraub plays not badly the role of the balebos.
Sara Skulnik is, unfortunately, too melodramatic in the role of the older daughter Clara.
Sylvia Fishman has less to do on the stage. The same also with Isidore Lipinsky, Isidore Friedman and Alex Cohen.
There are in Alkon's play moments that show that it has literary abilities; he should, however developed the types more, which he wants to portray for us, and also the dramatic actions, which take place in the play.
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