Old Jews Telling Jokes at Royal George Theatre: Theater review
An affable comedy revue delivers exactly what it promises.
You can't accuse this affable revue of burying the lede. Old Jews Telling Jokes, a stage adaptation of a popular video series on Tumblr—it's a brave new world, folks—arrives in a locally cast commercial production that follows a 16-month Off Broadway run, and it offers up exactly what its title indicates: 80 minutes of old Jews (plus a couple of younger ones) dealing out hoary old puns, gags, gently racy double entendres and jokes, jokes, jokes.
The defining idea is of a Jewish tradition of humor, jokes passed down from generation to generation as both a cultural touchstone and a coping mechanism. As on the web series (oldjewstellingjokes.com), the one-liners and wisecracks in the show are loosely organized by topic: Jewish mothers, sex before marriage, sex after marriage, religion, money, doctors. Many of the quips may be familiar to members of the tribe and goyim alike; the punch lines were vocally anticipated by many audience members on opening night. (There's also a smattering of songs, as well as an awkward interpolation of a filmed performance by the late comic Alan King.)
Luckily, the Chicago cast is top-notch and apparently—and infectiously—delighted to be sharing the Royal George stage. Gene Weygandt, Tim Kazurinsky, Renee Matthews, Dara Cameron and Alex Goodrich demonstrate impeccable timing and contagious good will. Each of the five actors also gets a brief character monologue about the function of humor that spills over just a bit into mawkishness, but what these Old Jews are hawking is mostly an affectionate, inoffensive evening of hearty laughs.