Judy Gold is one funny lady.
But she’s got her serious side, too.
Both extremes are in Gold’s “25 Questions for a Jewish Mother,” co-written with Kate Moira Ryan. Saturday, Arizona Onstage Productions opened its version of the play to a packed house at the Cabaret Theater at the Temple of Music and Art.
Here’s a look at the production:
This isn’t your traditional tale, with a beginning, middle and end. Gold and Ryan interviewed Jewish mothers across the country, asking them all a predetermined set of questions. The answers to those questions became a series of vignettes, each telling an anecdote that ranged from funny to touching to tragic.
There were 25 of them — hence the title. Among them: Who is your favorite Jewish mother (Gold’s is Barbra Streisand); how many times a day do you talk to your mother (at least twice, and sometimes more, much more); are Jewish mothers more paranoid (a disconnected phone call sent Gold’s mother into a tizzy, convinced she had been murdered in the middle of the conversation), and what would you do if your child were dating someone you didn’t like (make life miserable for both of them, of course).
From one, many
When Gold performed this, she did the nearly two-dozen characters herself. The script calls for anywhere from four to 21 actors; the AOP production used five, who sat around a set designed to look like a cozy living room. Hilary Bluestein-Lyons took on the lion’s share, introducing the stories and making the transitions. As each stood and addressed the audience, we were told their Jewish pedigree: “Mother of four. Writer and professor. Conservative,” “Grandmother of seven. Homemaker. Orthodox,” and so on.
Arizona Onstage’s take
When five actors do what one did originally, you can get a wider variety of character distinctions. But you can also lose the rhythm of the piece. That’s what happened with this Arizona Onstage version of the play. Sheldon Metz directed with a good visual eye, but he lost his touch with the timing. With any form of theater, but especially humor, timing is just about everything.
There were also problems with the storytelling: In the same way a story needs an arc, the storytelling needs one. With the exception of Bluestein-Lyons, there was a flatness to the delivery, robbing the tales of the impact or the laughs they should have had.
Give it time
This production had a short rehearsal process and a late-cast change. It runs through May 25. Our guess is that with a few more shows behind them, this cast will pick up the pace and hone their storytelling techniques.