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May 31, 2011 4:26 pm

Mike Burstyn Leads ’em Home in “The Adventures of Hershele Ostropolyer”

avatar by Maxine Dovere

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Hersehle star Mike Burstyn at the recent opening Gala of the Israel Film Festival in New York . Photo: Maxine Dovere.

“The Adventures of Hershele Ostropolyer” initiated a limited run (until June 26) at the Folksbiene Theater, Baruch College on Manhattan’s East Side.  Go! Go! Go!   It will transport you into a charming world where all can be solved by a bit of seychel, a bit of mazel, and, of course, a bit of love.

That’s what Yiddish theater is all about, isn’t it?

Hershele Ostropolyer is a would-be Robin Hood. Mike Burstyn is Hershele.  The plot, while wonderfully simple and obvious, keeps the viewer’s attention with just enough twists and turns through its iterative steps. It’s an “if only, what if?” experience in the possible (if not the probable) that is well worth seeing.  Hershele is challenged to help young love succeed and has only his wits on which to rely.  His defeat – and reformation – of the town miser, Reb Kalmen, is a quick moving, quick witted game well worth playing.

The evening on which this viewer saw the show, Burstyn was recovering from a leg injury, and, trooper that he is, managed to jump and bounce through the dancing – albeit, with a little help from his friends. The songs and limited dialogue, performed entirely in Yiddish, are translated into easily readable English and Russian supertitles, thus eliminating any language barrier for the non Yiddish speaking viewer.

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Based on the classic Yiddish play by Moyshe Gershenson, the show has an original score featuring nicely above average Yiddish theatre and folk songs compiled by the Yiddish musicologist Chana Mlotek. Zalmen Mlotek, Ms. Mloteks’s son, is the show’s music director, and is responsible for the arrangements.

Hershele is indeed an adventure – one well worth joining.

“The Adventures of Hershele Ostropolyer” performs at the 220-seat Baruch Performing Arts Center, 55 Lexington Avenue (entrance on 25th Street, between Lexington and 3rd Avenues) through June 26.

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