Yiddish-Wong-ish --It's All Fun in the Theater

06/16/2015 03:40 pm ET | Updated Jun 15, 2016

Talk about diversity. New York is certainly the land of plenty. Just this week alone, I spent time in an Irish/Yiddish world and the next day was transported by intergalactic forces to the Planet Wongo. All this for a subway token.

Wolf Mankowitz, British/Jewish polyglot is being represented by New Yiddish Rep at the Cell Theatre on West 23rd Street. In two one-act plays "2 by Wolf," we get a sampling from the prolific pen of Mankowitz. "The Irish Hebrew Lesson" perhaps the only tri-lingual play of its kind written in English, Irish and Yiddish, is followed by "The Bespoke Overcoat," performed in a Yiddish. (Supertitles are used in the latter play.) The director is Romanian Moshe Yassur, who has had a long career as actor/director here and in Israel.


The Irish Hebrew Lesson pits a religious Jew with a penchant for languages next to a young Irish rebel, hoping to rid Ireland of the British as St. did with the snakes. The rebel is too young to realize the fragility of life and so the older man takes the opportunity to protect the boy and himself by teaching him a little Hebrew and a little philosophy. That the rebel shares the same anti-Semitic joke that the interrogating English soldiers do is just another reminder of the how the pecking order of prejudice works.

The second play is about labor, money and the need to stay warm; as well as the need for dignity, even after death. A tailor negotiates with a poor man to make him a new, warm coat, but (at least as I understood), he only truly offers after he has heard the man died. That it takes a ghost to readdress charity makes don't know what you've lost till it's gone. The ghost suffers like all poor but in the end (or in the afterlife) takes his retribution from the greedy employer while the tailor relies on his schnapps to make sense of his own life.

Both plays are beautifully acted by Menachem Fox, Stuart Cullen, Lev Herskovitz, Ilan Kwittken and Fergal O'Hanlon. Show runs till July 2.


From Yiddishkeit to Wongolite...composer Dave Ogrin has taken his wonderful Wild Women of Planet Wongo which originally was presented in a classic theatrical setting and moved it to the outer galaxy of Bushwick for a cosmic immersive experience in space. With the feel of a 60's B movie, two astronauts, delivering CheesyMoon Crater Chips to hungry space stations, find themselves after three long years on a planet in habited only by women. Though hesitant at first, the captain finally joins his crewmate in tasting the delicacies of the Wongo Flesh, in his case, the Queen. But sex isn't the only thing the Wongettes have in mind...they are also starved -and have very different plans for their male guests.

It's great fun to interact with the Amazonian Wongo girls and drink Wongotini's made fresh at the Brooklyn Fireproof bar. The book by Steve Mackes, lyrics by Ben Budick, Steve Mackes, and Dave Ogrin is witty, sexy and very feel good. (The Wongotinis help with that, too). The cast of young singer dancers is joyful and lovingly directed by David Rigano. Musical director is Rachel Dean with choreography by Juson Williams.

The show runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday until July 4, with a Wongo dance party after the late show on weekends. If you can't get to Joshua Tree this summer to make contact with the aliens, I'd happily settle for Bushwick and Wongo World.