Review: “The Russian and the Jew” at The Tank

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Anthony J. Piccione

  • New York Critic

For some younger theatergoers, it could be easy to forget how during the dark days of the Cold War in the 1960s, many Soviet citizens feared the state tyranny and suppression of faith that existed in that era, and sought to escape to the United States in a manner that isn’t all too different from the refugees fleeing countries like Syria and Yemen today. What’s still easy for many people to forget today is that these migrants have deeply personal (and often tumultuous) stories that they are often taking with them. That’s exactly what “The Russian and the Jew”, the latest production to be showcased at The Tank, seems to be aiming to remind us.

The brainchild of actor/writers Emily Louise Perkins and Liba Vaynberg, this play is filled with all the romance, plot twists, and personal conflict that make up any great contemporary drama. Rotating back and forth between the late 1960s and occasionally 1992 after the collapse of the USSR, this play may be a period piece, but the themes that it deals with – from misogyny to anti-Semitic bigotry – are ones that are still very much relevant today, and thus is bound to be a very compelling drama that audiences for their 20s to their 80s are bound to be drawn into and appreciate. With the help of a very talented ensemble of actors, these characters and their individual story lines are almost impossible to take your eyes off of.

Staged in The Tank’s intimate 56 seat theater, this show is directed wonderfully by Ines Braun, and the action of the play is also enhanced by the set design of Sara C. Walsh and the excellent lighting design of Cha See, while Asa Wember’s sound design sets the tone and atmosphere from the very start – and continues to do so up to the very end – exactly where and when this play takes place.

If there’s any one thing about this show that could have made it more enjoyable, it was exactly what they provided to audience members: Vodka shots! Given that this was my last review of 2018, I honestly couldn’t think of a better way to end the year that with that, and the very fine show that accompanied it. If you have the chance before the holiday season, consider seeing it during its final performances!

 

THE RUSSIAN AND THE JEW

 “The Russian and the Jew” stars Emily Louise Perkins, Liba Vaynberg, Terrell Wheeler, Moti Margolin, Jordan Bellow, and Sophie Sorensen.

“The Russian and the Jew” is written by Emily Louise Perkins and Liba Vaynberg and directed by Ines Braun, featuring assistant director Maren Searle, dramaturg Erin Capistrano, stage manager Shayna O’Neill, assistant stage manager Emma Clarkson, costume design by Dina El-Aziz, set design by Sara C. Walsh, sound design by Asa Wember, and lighting design by Cha See.

“The Russian and the Jew” runs at The Tank, located at 312 W 36th Street, New York, NY, from December 4th-20th. Run time is approximately two hours plus a 10 minute intermission. For more information, please visit www.thetanknyc.org.