Written by James Sherman
Directed by Dan Kelley
‘Isaac’ successful in South Florida
Some of the jokes are no longer as fresh as they must have been initially, and the Skokie/Nazi non-confrontation may be old-hat, but that didn’t faze the delighted senior citizens in a packed Wednesday matinee, enjoying the sassy musical shtick before the play and the heart-warming story as it unfolded.
In 2001, Chicago’s Victory Gardens revived this, its longest running play, after a hiatus of 12 years. Now, if interested audiences head down to Florida to enjoy Jim Sherman’s provocative, insightful God of Isaac, they will find it’s worth the trip.
Such a clever play! Isaac (Patrick A. Wilkinson), a troubled young man, tries to uncover his Jewish identity at the historic moment when Nazi’s are planning to march in Chicago’s heavily Jewish suburb: Skokie. We see him struggle against a domineering mother (Phyllis Spear, sitting in the audience and initially heckling him), his Jewish girlfriend (Rebeca Diaz), and his Shiksa wife (Kelli Mohrbacher). We watch as his search brings him face to face with such extremes as the militant JDL (Christian Vandepas) and his kindly family Rabbi (Tom Bengston), as well as introducing him to important literature — including the Torah.
Isaac is not a heroic figure — not Tom from the Glass Menagerie, not the Marlon Brando character from On The Waterfront, not Huck Finn fishing along the Mississippi, not Professor Higgins or Colonel Pickering from My Fair Lady. But all of these (often introspective) persona (and others) interrupt –and yet reinforce — the plot with their famous and familiar lines altered to reflect his struggle (complete with unexpected yet hilarious yiddishisms).
The play spins from one-liners to serious examination of religion and identity until it reaches the cathartic differential: it is not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. And that makes all the difference!
Beverly Friend, Ph.D.
Member, American Theater Critics Assn.
Broward Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W Sample Rd Coral Springs, Fl 33065. 954-344-7765 Tickets $38 (Students $16), 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday through April 20