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Sex, Kabbalah, and the Academy at Fringe

NYC theater festival starts this week

Ari M. Brostoff
August 13, 2009

The New York International Fringe Festival, that annual summer smorgasbord of off-off-off-Broadway theater, will include a handful of Jewish-themed plays this year among its 200-odd offerings when it opens tomorrow. For one, there’s Sex and the Holy Land, which began as the undergraduate thesis project of playwright Melanie Zoey Weinstein, now 23. Inspired by organized trips to Israel Weinstein went on in high school and college, it has a “girls just want to have fun, sex in the Holy Land vibe, but it’s about so much more,” she told the New Jersey Jewish News. Then there’s The Secret of Our Souls: A Kabbalistic Love Story, in which “the Baal Shem Tov (John Lopez) and his wife, Chana (Alexis Fishman) battle false messiah Jacob Frank (Adam Reich) over the Jewish blood libel,” according to the Jewish Week. The musical, by Sesame Street songwriting veterans Ben Goldstein and Philip Namanworth, won’t play on Shabbat and will be performed Orthodox-style one night, with no women singing, according the Jerusalem Post. And Peace Warriors, by Israeli-American historian Doron Ben-Atar, lampoons a group of philandering anti-Zionist professors; when it played in Washington, D.C. last month, The New Republic called it a “savagely witty satire of elite American academics, and their attitudes toward the Middle East.” We’ll have reviews early next week.

Ari M. Brostoff is Culture Editor at Jewish Currents.