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Off-Broadway Review: “Sabbath Girl” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Sunday March 8, 2020)

Off-Broadway Review: “Sabbath Girl” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Sunday March 8, 2020)
Written by Cary Gitter
Directed by Joe Brancato
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

A new play entitled “The Sabbath Girl” by Cary Gitter is the latest production to take the stage in theater “B” at 59E59, transferring from Penguin Rep Theatre where it had its world premiere. It presents itself as somewhat of a rom com, structured similarly to a sitcom, moving the action forward with a series of very short scenes. The best that could be said about the production is that it is lighthearted entertainment that touches on subject matter that has been addressed many times before on stage, television and film. There are no surprises which makes it completely the responsibility of the actors to capture the audience interest since the script is filled with stereotypes, clichés and theatrical tropes. There are sporadic times the cast is successful in this endeavor but for the most part they cannot transcend the material.

The thin plot revolves around Angie (Lauren Annunziata) an Italian American Roman Catholic and Seth (Jeremy Rishe) an observant Orthodox Jewish man who live next door in the same New York apartment building. Angie is the curator of a contemporary art gallery in Chelsea and Seth works in his family owned knish shop on the lower east side. Angie is single and Seth is divorced. They meet when Seth knocks on Angie’s door needing help turning on his air conditioner because it is Sabbath and he is prohibited from doing so since he is a practicing Orthodox Jew and it is the day of rest. Angie complies and eventually becomes his “Shabbos Goy” a term used to describe a non-Jew who is asked to perform tasks that are forbidden on Sabbath. She of course becomes more than that and visits the knish shop where she meets Seth’s sister Rachel (Lauren Singerman) who instantly dislikes Angie and tries to convince her brother that his infatuation is ridiculous and not proper. Angie has a tryst with the young artist Blake (Ty Molbak) who she is trying to woo into opening his show at her gallery. You do not have to guess that all ends well and happily ever after. One other convenient theatrical trick is used as Angie’s grandmother Sophia (Angelina Fiordellisi) dances in and out of scenes giving her advice about her love life.

There are too many structural problems with the script which lays out no rules. If Seth is having trouble with observing his faith how could he have a relationship with Angie but not be able to change a light bulb? Why and when does Sophia decide to dance into a scene? According to a note in the program observant Jews appear like young modern Americans except the males wear a yarmulke. So why does Seth have tzitzit adorning his waist and Rachel have her head covered in a scarf reminiscent of a babushka? Angie never appeared overly religious so why would she have problems having a relationship with Seth? Scenic designers Christopher and Justin Swader use modular cubes dispersed around the stage and projections to depict different places. These common conventions don’t really work too well since the projections by (Yana Birykova) at times are on the actors faces and the stage seems to bare and stark to accommodate a warm romantic atmosphere.

Perhaps interreligious romantic relationships are still a problem and a valid topic for conversation but currently there needs to be a different spin to create an interesting story. Perhaps good old fashioned sentimental romantic comedies that tug at your heartstrings still attract an audience, but they also need to be solid and real. “Sabbath Girl” provides neither of these literary necessities but does offer up some sweet potato knishes infused with spicy brown mustard. Perhaps that is all you need!

SABBATH GIRL

The cast of “Sabbath Girl” features Lauren Annunziata, Angelina Fiordellisi, Ty Molbak, Jeremy Rishe, and Lauren Singerman.

The design team includes Christopher & Justin Swader (scenic design); Gregory Gale (costume design); Todd O. Wren (lighting design); Matt Otto (original music and sound design); Yana Birykova (projection design); and Buffy Cardoza (props design). With choreography by Lorna Ventura. The Production Stage Manager is Michael Palmer.

“Sabbath Girl” runs at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison venues) through Sunday March 8, 2020 on the following performance schedule: Tuesday – Friday at 7:15 p.m.; Saturday at 2:15 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.; Sunday at 2:15 p.m. Single tickets are $25 - $35 ($26 for 59E59 Members). To purchase tickets, call the 59E59 Box Office at 646-892-7999 or visit www.59e59.org. The running time is 90 minutes, with no intermission.

Photo: Lauren Annunziata and Jeremy Rishe in “The Sabbath Girl” at 59E59 Theaters. Credit: Carol Rosegg.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Monday, February 17, 2020