Author! Author!,” which looks at the life, times and words of Jewish humorist Sholom Aleichem, continues to be a crowd-pleaser some 18 years after its debut. The popularity may be due to its charm, relevancy and the cast’s earnest willingness to please, but those looking for something new or theatrically compelling will not find it here.
“Author! Author!” appears at first like a one-man show, but it is very much an ensemble piece. It centers around Aleichem’s (Chris DeCarlo) impressions, preserved in published stories and correspondence, of turn-of-the-century America (specifically New York) after arriving from Eastern Europe. Lively interpretations are featured in word, song and dance by Evelyn Rudie as a suffragette-style newspaperwoman, and a variety of roles filled by other cast members.
Standout sketches include the opening “My Ship Is Coming In,” a re-creation of Aleichem’s arrival in New York. This, of course, evokes thoughts of the Ellis Island experience of many immigrants, and reminds audiences of what opportunity and promise a still-plentiful economy held.
Musings on the value of life lived with generosity vs. miserdom and how it affects society is the subject of “The Miser and the Thief.” Still relevant is the moral of “Two Anti-Semites,” touching on the threat of prejudice and how it forces those in the minority to assimilate, sometimes beyond what is necessary.
Yet despite the cast’s enthusiasm, presentation of the musical numbers seem somehow lacking in power.
Music and lyrics do hold up however, presenting the writer’s view as well as the more innocent early part of the century.