NauenThen

The Jewish Lear

May 27, 2018

Totally great to see a melodrama of Yiddish theater, The Jewish King Lear, by Jacob Gordin, written 1892, translated by Ruth Gay. Another play of his, The Kreutzer Sonata, (based on the Tolstoy novella) was the first Yiddish play to be translated into English. This Lear had a happy ending like the 17th-centure Nahum Tate version that we saw once, where no one died, & the end was a reconciliatory dinner.

According to the program, "Gordin's signature realism differed from that which we recognize as realism today. Nevertheless, ... his innovations shifted expectations about form, language, and subject matter, and showed younger writers what might be done further." It's harder in the 21st century to take the play on its own terms, without knowing some of this background, because it lacks irony, & so the plot twists seem silly or contrived. But it had real feeling, and the pride that prevented people from leading with their hearts was beautifully illustrated.