Goethe Institut-Main Stage
Today, July 13, 9:15 p.m.
Sunday, July 14, 8:15 p.m.
Thursday, July 18, 7:30 p.m.
They say: “Hilarious two-actor play on the history and absurdity of prejudice and racism. This fast-paced show combines sketches, improvisation, puppets, audience participation, a game show and multimedia. Profiled on CNN. ‘Funny!’ The Washington Post. ‘Howled and Cracked-Up!’ The Philadelphia Inquirer.”
SPOILER WARNING: if you are a 2013 Fringegoer who would be shocked to be told that all kinds of people, despite their ethnicities, cultures or creeds, basically want the same things, you are about to get educated. “Diversity programming” is one of the ways The Black-Jew Dialogues describes itself in the info packet. That would be a show that a school or a company brings in to address issues of diversity and tolerance among its students or staff, but in a fun way. There’s no quiz at the end and no authority figures announcing new penalties for not being nicer to one another, but you never forget that this show aims to improve you.
Ron Jones and Andy Schlosberg (I won’t tell you which one’s black and which one’s Jewish) start off the show wondering aloud what happened to the twentieth-century black-Jewish coalition for social justice. The skits, videos and puppetry that follow are amiable explorations of stereotypes and the persecutions and pains both groups have suffered through being a non-dominant social group.
The jokes are extremely mild (“Mazel Tov!” says one. “Gesundheit!” answers the other) and the social analysis not particularly revelatory, but it is gently funny, and the audience enjoyed themselves and asked questions after. It’s also worth noting that there was a joke (in a video segment, told in man-on-the-street interview style) that prompted some offended-audience noise; as gentle as the humor is, it’s probably one of the few Fringe shows using the big racial epithets, though the words aren’t used in hostility.
Schlosberg is a new (unadvertised) addition to this long-running show. Original Jew and co-creator of the show Larry Jay Tish, while not physically present, shows up in video sequences and in the cleverly designed, cruelly underused puppets, each a Muppet-style miniature of the original show’s cast.
The show never really answers what happened to peace, love and understanding since the 1960s. But Friday night’s audience failed utterly at the guess-the-celebrity-heritage game show segment, “Jew/Not Jew,” which, one supposes, might be progress.
See it if: You want to address your issues with tolerance and diversity but hope there are fun elements such as rapping grannies.
Skip it if: Rapping grannies are likely to make you much less tolerant.