The God of Isaac 2017

By James Sherman.

Directed by Dennis Zacek.

Produced by Grippo Stage Company.

At Piven Theatre, Evanston.

Son takes over role written and acted by his father to great success.

Several dynamics are at play in the terrific remount of James Sherman’s 1985 family comedy – The God of Issac. First, this production continues the artistic collaboration between Jim Sherman, playwright and Dennis Zacek, director. They have worked together on more than a dozen projects including this remount.  Secondly T. Isaac Sherman, Jim’s son takes over the role written by his father and first played by him in 1985. T. Isaac delivers a knockout performance as the young Jewish man in search of his identity. He has enough charm and innocence to make Isaac Adams empathetic.

This comedy has a unique structure that includes having Issac Adams breaking the fourth wall as he directly addresses his mother, Mrs. Adams (Anita Silvert) at the show’s start  and periocially throughout the two acts. Mother is a sterotypical ‘Jewish mother’ who garners some laughs. As a personal search for his Jewish roots, Issac, who isn’t a prating religious Jew, starts to realize that being Jewish is more than simply being born from a Jewish mother.

It is 1977 and the American Nazi Party is trying to march in Skokie, IL,  a Chicago suburb with a large Jewish population including many Holocaust survivors. Issac meets Jewish Defense League and several untra-conservative Jewish  leaders who remind him of his roots. Issac also starts to research his Jewish roots. The writer in him makes him do aggresive reasearch. This causes trouble in his marriage to Shelley, his shikes (non-Jewish) wife., played by Annabel Steven.

We witness Isaac as he questions a mixture of Jewish folks in his search. He also ask his mother why he was raised in a non-religious household. As Isaac’s search move forward, playwright James Sherman sprinkles several comic scenes to dramatize several Jewish traits with scenes references to  Huck Finn, On the Water Front and My Fair Lady among others. Each vignette is filled with strong Yiddish content. We also meet his longtime friend Chaya (Jolie Lepselter) a practing religious Jewish woman. This two act comedy is funny yet filled with much Yiddish and ethnic tradition. While very Jewish, The God of Isaac is a heartfelt, honest search for personal identity that not only 20something Jews are struggling with but many contemporary Americans are just realizing that their ethnic/religious roots have value as they search for who and what thet are.

And for young Jews, the raise of antisemitic attacks on synagogues here and through Europe signal a rise in attacks on Jews. So actually, The God of Isaac is more than a cleverly funny play about what it is to be Jewish but a warning to be aware and pround of being Jewish.

T.Isaac Sherman was wonderful asIsaac Adams. He got help from the ensemble of Brian Rabinowitz, Charles Schoenherr, Anita Silvert and Annabel Steven.

Highly Recommended.

Tom Williams.

At Piven Theatre in the Noyes Arts Center, 927 Noyes, Evanston, IL, call800-838-3006, www.grippostagecompany.com, tickets $39, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays  at 3 & 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours 10 minutes with intermission.

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