Goethe Institut – Main Stage
Tuesday, July 16, 6:15 p.m. Wednesday, July 17, 8 p.m. Sunday, July 21, 5:45 p.m. Sunday, July 28, 4:45 p.m.
They say: “Growing up in Jerusalem is more than the Bible and war. Storyteller Noa Baum takes us on a poignant, humorous journey through her life. Experience a fresh side of Israel with childhood adventures, outrageous matchmaking and all the love in-between!”
Cara’s Take: Noa Baum‘s alto is rich and soothing, appropriate for a storyteller and appropriate to the stories she tells. Three tales come from her childhood, including the one that gives the performance its title; three are from her adulthood, the last dealing with recognizing bits of her own experience within her young daughter.
Jerusalem is important to the stories, but it never becomes a central character. We discover moments of Israeli life—-especially in the three stories related to her childhood—-but there’s no exploration of the city or even, really, her neighborhood.
What’s explored is life. Baum’s grandmother makes a reassuring appearance in the first story, comforting a young Noa who’s afraid of the waking darkness before sleep. The interjections, sometimes without direct translation, in Yiddish, Hebrew, German, and Polish give her grandmother, as well as her mother in a later story, specificity and heft. The story itself may only sketch the people around Baum, but the sketches are never caricatures; they feel real and lived-in.
Baum’s memories of wanting to be like the other girls in third grade, or at least not have such an unusual name, are vivid and truthful. Children so often want to be like everyone else, even as the adults around them try to convince them that it’s better to be unique. The little embarrassments of having people make fun of your name, of being the shortest in the class all through school, of having the boys pull your braid are real as she tells her stories and draws the audience to her.
Many of the stories include snatches of song—-some translated, some not. It’s clear that whatever problems her family may have had, she felt surrounded by love.
There’s a leap of years between her last childhood story, which ends around seventh grade, and her first adulthood story, where she specifically mentions being 29. I would have liked a little of that gap filled in, but that’s because I wanted more of her stories.
Each of the six stories is obviously well-honed, although there’s no coherent transition from one to the next. That’s a minor flaw in a lovely, warm performance.
Two technical issues are worth mentioning. The first, a microphone that kept crackling was fixed by one of the Fringe volunteers (or possibly a staff member not wearing a staff shirt). When the issue was resolved, it enhanced the storytelling. The second was not so happy. Just two minutes before the end of the final story, a staff member called down and told Baum and the audience that the time had been exceeded. It hadn’t been, as best I could tell (the performance is listed as 75 minutes in the literature). However, even if Ms Baum were in the wrong, there should have been some less intrusive way for the staff to communicate with her. I hope that the heroic group who puts on Capital Fringe will do some thinking on ways to resolve any similar issues in the future.
See it if: You want to spend an evening with good stories.
Skip it if: You don’t have room for one more heart-warming one-woman show.