Closed 1h 30m
A Jewish Joke
Midtown W
74

A Jewish Joke NYC Reviews and Tickets

74%
(44 Reviews)
Positive
75%
Mixed
23%
Negative
2%
Members say
Great acting, Slow, Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Relevant

About the Show

In this solo dramedy, Bernie Lutz is a curmudgeonly Jewish comedy screenwriter from MGM, who comes up against the Communist blacklist in 1950’s Hollywood.

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Member Reviews (44)

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78
Meandering, Thought-provoking, Slow, Ambitious

See it if enjoy one-man, one act plays, curious about the Hollywood blacklist, learn how writing partners work, feel for movie business in the 50's

Don't see it if don't like one person plays, want a play that delves really deeply into the Blacklist, don't like plays where most action occurs over phone

69
Very interesting story

See it if You’re interested in history about the blacklist in Hollywood

Don't see it if You don’t like one man shows

Critic Reviews (18)

March 14th, 2019

"'A Jewish Joke' brings immediacy to not only the personal and professional effects of the Hollywood blacklist, but to the current onslaught of internet finger-pointing and fear-mongering that can, and does, ruin lives even more quickly than in the slow-moving fifties. Watching Bernie squirm and sweat over issues not of his own making, but issues that will take him down, is made only slightly more palatable by his self-deprecating humor."
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March 13th, 2019

"It’s a sound set-up for drama, but 'A Jewish Joke' fails to deliver. First, there is nothing particularly Jewish about the political landscape it evinces...Despite excellent staging by David Ellenstein and an evocative set design by Michael Joseph Ormond, this hackneyed production adds little to what we already know about Joseph McCarthy’s campaign to rid the U.S. of the 'Red Menace.' Worse, it does nothing to help viewers connect the dots to contemporary political concerns."
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March 13th, 2019

"A crowded, unsubtle piece, jammed with annoyingly incessant, desperate phone business, including frustrated banging of the receiver...Extraneous issues…further clutter the narrative…This should be tour-de-force territory, and Johnson's intensely strenuous efforts are likely to be appreciated as such by some. For my gelt, however, he lacks the innately East Coast tone of, let's say, a Jackie Mason or a Mel Brooks, although faintly shadowing their aggressive mannerisms."
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March 14th, 2019

"Director David Ellenstein keeps the show moving, but this is Mr. Johnson’s piece. He embodies those men who were up against the wall and used a much humor as they could to survive this hellish attack on humanity based not on facts, but trumped up lies and fear...This play made me remember that time in history and the fact this should NEVER happen again."
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March 15th, 2019

"With taut direction by David Ellenstein, Johnson recounts Bernie’s story between phone calls as step by step the situation becomes fraught with increasing tension and danger to his career...The process of reading gags from Bernie’s collection periodically breaks the tension...The strength of the play, which lasts 90 minutes without an intermission, lies in uncertainty right up to the bitter end. Johnson does a superb job connecting with his audience."
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March 14th, 2019

"When it falters, does so because the script is, at times, contrived or repetitious. When it succeeds, it does so because Phil Johnson so fully inhabits his role that his character’s stressed-out persona transcends the page...Bernie frequently turns to the audience and tells one of the many off-color gags he has collected on index cards. Most are groaners and, whether meant to be awful or not, they do keep the audience from becoming too emotionally caught up in Bernie’s dilemma."
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March 13th, 2019

"Johnson’s delivery embodies the period-style clichés, in the neurotic goofball shtick of the wisecracking writer’s cynical jokes, then increasingly captures the man’s real emotional reactions to the slow-paced disclosures...’A Jewish Joke’ not only presents audiences with a flashback to the tastes of the mid-century and a personal perspective on a disturbing slice of American history, but also offers an implicit warning not to let it happen again,."
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T
March 13th, 2019

“Zero drama...For a ‘dramedy’ that surely fancies itself more comedy than drama, having the majority of laughs coming from the occasional joke spouted off a notecard isn’t exactly a good sign...The evening didn’t do much for me...The whole blacklisting movement isn’t really addressed with any depth—fine, so if that was the case, what’s left is a borderline unlikable, snarky comedy writer fumbling around his office answering phone calls for 90 minutes with no intermission. "
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December 5th, 2017
For a previous production

"This is an excellent examination of how quickly a career could fly off the rails during that period, and here, taking place in a single afternoon. It's powerful and relevant material, laced with great helpings of humor, and thoroughly deserving of a hearty recommendation...Ellenstein's direction is smoothly worked out so that there's never a static moment...There's a nature flow of movement within this animated and frustrating writer we're witnessing in his direst hour."
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S
March 20th, 2018
For a previous production

"Johnson’s script is brilliant in weaving both comedy (lots of Jewish jokes) and the fear, confusion, and what turns out to be the agony of a man not only unjustly accused, but asked to either admit his 'betrayal' or to rat on his partner Morris...Johnson is utterly believable, so much so that you’ll feel that he’s just invited you to his office for a chat. But this is serious, portentous conversation, horribly reminiscent – and frighteningly still relevant."
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March 20th, 2018
For a previous production

"True to the play’s title, there’s plenty of humor...But there’s much more as well, because the piece — as off-the-wall as it can be at times — grapples seriously with such issues as bigotry and political hysteria and the dangers of unchecked authority...Ellenstein directs the piece with an expert feel for the ebb and flow of emotions...Bernie and the play also make a great case for the place of Jewish humor in American life...A show that sparkles with not-so-common wit and wisdom."
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December 5th, 2017
For a previous production

"Johnson delivers a moving and memorable performance in this sobering tale about the ‘red scare’ era of Senator Joseph McCarthy in an astounding one-man performance with a script that is all too uncomfortably contemporary...Ellenstein matches the sizzling writing with a production that beautifully builds tension in disarmingly subtle fashion...What’s most impressive is Johnson’s emotionally compelling performance."
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S
March 20th, 2018
For a previous production

"'A Jewish Joke' succeeds largely due to Johnson’s anguished portrayal of a mensch who’s fought for every little victory in life and done so with no more than his punch lines and an unflagging refusal to quit...He somehow manages to wring laughs, mostly from the obvious one-liners that Bernie resorts to as he feels his world slipping away."
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March 20th, 2018
For a previous production

"This is the third incarnation of the play I’ve seen over the several years of its development. It just keeps getting stronger and deeper. And Johnson’s virtuosic solo performance just keeps getting better...With its mix of goofball humor and deadly serious subjects, the play could be difficult to navigate. But David Ellenstein’s direction is beautifully nuanced. As the frenzy and intensity build to a crashing crescendo, he wisely inserts pauses and quiet moments."
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December 1st, 2017
For a previous production

" Johnson brings Bernie to such vivid life, you think he must know him inside-out. He probably does; Johnson co-wrote the 90-minute play with Marni Freedman...Directed by David Ellerstein, 'A Jewish Joke' frames a national crisis in personal terms, boiling down McCarthyism to the choices forced on one man...Johnson’s thoroughgoing performance is big enough to make the play’s case...Johnson brings Bernie to life psychologically as well as physically."
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T
December 7th, 2017
For a previous production

"Highly engaging and gut-wrenchingly authentic...Johnson’s performance was exceptional. His ability to cope with his world crashing around him while delivering clever and entertaining jokes was outstanding...His dramatic performances were sincere and his comedic delivery was top notch. His ability to deliver a 90-minute monologue without losing his passion and focus was inspiring...A gripping drama mixed with a healthy dose of comedy make this production a must-see."
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March 20th, 2018
For a previous production

"Johnson is spot-on...After the initial mention, the script virtually abandons hard history, content to fuel Johnson’s performance. Johnson is outstanding as he adapts to each layer of Bernie’s descent; but without factual foundation, Bernie becomes far less sympathetic...Johnson and Ellenstein are true professionals and illustrate an according level of care. But scriptural oversights don’t repair on their own; in fact, against Johnson’s excellence, they tend to become more apparent."
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S
December 7th, 2017
For a previous production

"Under the nimble direction of David Ellenstein, Johnson combines the timing and irony of the best of the Jewish stand-up comics with the virtuoso skills of a show business wheeler-dealer...Johnson gives a bravura performance as Lutz...Johnson is convincing in a physically and emotionally demanding role. At first he tries to deflect his gnawing dread of a collapsing career with wisecracks...'A Jewish Joke” brilliantly proves that the blacklist was no laughing matter."
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