Just a little over half a century after it premiered at the Phoenix Theater in London, "The Wooden Dish" by celebrated playwright Edmund Morris had its Yiddish premiere in Jerusalem, playing to a full house at the Rebecca Crown Theater. And there was something symbolic in the fact that Yiddish premiere took place the day after the announcement of the election results in which the Gil Pensioners' Party scored seven Knesset mandates.
"The Wooden Dish," though set in Texas, does not in any way depend on geography. It is a universal play that could find an echo anywhere and at any time. A Yiddishpiel production, translated by Yankele Alperin and Shmuel Atzmon and directed by Yzhak Shauli, the play stars Yaacov Bodo as a cantankerous elderly man who has been living with his son and daughter-in-law for 17 years. There is no love lost between the daughter-in-law and her father-in-law. She doesn't like him and he doesn't like her, and neither makes a secret of it.
The daughter-in-law is at the end of her tether. The old man breaks things in the house every day and protests that she serves his food in an unbreakable wooden dish. She wants to put him in a senior citizens' home. He doesn't want to go. His son is torn between loyalties to both father and wife, and the only member of the family who empathizes with the old man is his granddaughter Susan.
The story line would be too simplistic if that was all there was to it. There are also sub-plots that add to the tensions without losing the thread of the original plot.
Yiddish theater is often associated with an overdose of schmaltz. This time there wasn't any. It was pure theater, illustrating the kind of tragedy that visits too many families because the middle generation doesn't know how to cope with the older generation.
The play lost nothing in translation. The Yiddish dialogue flowed smoothly and the drama of an old man's rage and fear was so real that many members of the audience - most of whom were senior citizens - identified with it, and applauded him each time that he kept his dignity intact.
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