Starting tonight at New Jewish Theatre, November 29 – December 10, is the one-man play A Jewish Joke written and performed by Phil Johnson. The play looks at a dark time in US political history. In 1950’s Hollywood, at the height of the Communist Blacklist, when careers were ruined by a whisper, we meet irascible comedy screenwriter Bernie Lutz. A Jewish Joke catalogs the most important afternoon in Lutz’s life. He’s a 50-something half of the comedy screenwriting duo of Lutz and Frumsky. Having worked together since they were both 13, they have moved upward from a Newark Nickelodeon, then on to vaudeville, the Catskills, New York Yiddish theatre and finally sunny LA where they are supplying scripts for the Marx Brothers, Danny Kaye, and NBC. The icing on their cake is their big fancy Hollywood premiere that evening for their latest movie, The Big Casbah!
Having spent his life being funny and lovable, Bernie has made his way up the ladder by being a spineless Hollywood sellout. Now, the night before the big red carpet premiere that has the potential to make Bernie’s career, he has been asked to name names and give up his friend. He has one day to decide if he will accede to government demands and save his skin, or protect his friend and save his soul in the most serious decision of his life.
Over the next hour and a half, we feel the four walls of Bernie’s office start closing in as his perfect life is threatened and starts unraveling with every phone call coming in on his Black Rotary Dial multi-line telephone. He and Morris have been placed on the “Red Channels” list – the right-wing pamphlet-style journal – for apparently having Communist ties.
Will Lutz find the moral strength to be the mench where there is no mench? Or will fame and fortune, even just make a living, prove too precious to forego. The answers to these absorbing questions connect the loose strings dropped during the play.
A Jewish Joke is one man’s journey through a historical reality as well as into the depths of his own soul and is the heart of this multi-layered, compelling, and surprisingly relevant play.
A Jewish Joke will run November 29 – December 10 in the JCC’s Wool Studio Theatre, 2 Millstone Campus Drive. Please note, this show runs only for two weeks. There are both matinee and evening performances on both Sundays, December 3 and 10. Tickets are $36 for preview performance, $39 – $44 all other performances and are available at newjewishtheatre.org or 314.442.3283. Season tickets are still available as well as our new FLEX Passes which allow for ultimate flexibility with subscriber privileges and more. For information, call the number above