The Invasion of Skokie

By Steven Petersenthe invasion of skokie

Directed by Richard Perez

At Chicago Dramatist, Chicago

Comedy and drama conflict in backyard tale of a Jewish family

My trouble with Steven Peterson’s world premiere The Invasion of Skokie arises from his contradictory blend of comedy and drama in a most predictable and cliched TV-sitcom style work that has major characters adamantly determined to hold their personal beliefs then suddenly they give in over the course of a few hours.

It’s Skokie, IL in 1978, a place with over 40,000 Jews – many of which are Holocaust survivors. The neo-Nazis are about to march there and Morry Kaplan (Mick Weber) is getting a rifle to stop them. Morry and his wife Sylivia (Cindy Gold) have another problem – their daughter Debbie (Tracey Kaplan) and their ‘shabbes goy’ Charlie (Bradford R. Lund) are about to announce their engagement.

the invasion of skokie

Morry is a mean, narrow-minded jerk determined to steamroll over all the family members in the name of religious beliefs when his inability to change and adapt to new circumstances fuels his rage. Petersen’s script fails to demonstrate real religious fever in Morry – only a stubborn streak.  Debbie – a liberal, liberated lawyer argues and fights with her father over First Amendment rights. She too is stubborn. The two seem estranged each barely tolerating each other.

the invasion of skokie

Since Charlie is like the Kaplan’s own son, why would Morry and Sylvia not realize that they could end up an item? And why does Morry insist that Charlie convert to Judaism in order for him to give his blessing to their marriage? I believe a liberated woman of the 1970’s would have simply married her lover and not been too concerned with what her narrow-minded father thought. This plot stretched credibility especially when the daughter and father dislike each other.

I also though the bonding scenes that find Charlie helping Morry learn how to use a rifle just after Morry announced his disfavor with the marriage was a contrivance. The dark humor wasn’t funny to me, only a strained awkwardness.

The TV-sitcom style demanded a complete change by both Debbie and Morry that finds them almost reconciled without much motivation at the show’s end. I failed to see that moment that either Debbie or Morry made a change of heart.

The show contained terrific work by Cindy Gold as the supportive and strong Jewish mother. Bradford R. Lund was steady as Charlie. Mick Weber was believable as the controlling father. Michael Joseph Mitchell had the difficult task as the comic foil Howie.

There is nothing new here just a uneven story that has been told before – a Jewish girl marrying a gentile  in modern America  and a traditional religious father objecting is hardly earth-shattering. The mixing of humor and drama didn’t work for me.  This show needs a better focus and deeper motivation for the main characters.  I still don’t get why Debbie tells Charlie they must “cool it for awhile” ?

Not Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed:  September 10, 2010

For full show information, check out The Invasion of Skokie page at TheatreInChicago.

At Chicago Dramatist, 1105W. Chicago ave, Chicago, IL, www.chicagodramatist.org, tickets $32, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission, through October 10, 2010