Goethe Institut Mainstage, 812 7th St. NW
Wednesday, July 14, at 10 p.m. Friday, July 16, at 8 p.m. Sunday, July 18, at 9 p.m. Tuesday, July 20, at 10 p.m.
They Say: ‘Chai’ = ‘Life’ in Hebrew. Based on his award-winning PBS special, Slash Coleman, the son of a Holocaust survivor, creates a profound and engaging storytelling experience that reaches to the core of Jewish Identity and Jewish Life.
Aaron’s Take: Let’s clear a few things up first. Starting with our throats. Now say “identity,” and you’ve got the name of the show. This ain’t about spiced Indian tea — it’s about Jewish people, and one Jewish person (and his family) in particular.
That Jewish person calls himself Slash Coleman, although as with many of the details in his one-man show, it’s hard to know for certain whether that’s one of those poetic-license things. His mother survived the Holocaust as a girl and moved to Virginia, where she met his father, a carjacking gentile. Out came our protagonist, who over the course of his childhood suppressed and then embraced his Jewish identity.
“Attempting to lighten the darkness with humor is a very Jewish thing,” Coleman tells us. “Attempting” is the right word. Coleman gives us nasal Jewish voices, he gives us musical numbers (including semi-mocking renditions of “She Loves You” and “All You Need Is Love” with — Beatles snob here — a few misplaced chords), he gives us wildly implausible stories from his youth. But ultimately, the show feels like something of an apology. “Hey God,” he seems to be saying. “Haven’t always been a great Jew, have I? But check this out: I’ve convinced an audience to listen to me riff on my Jewish identity for an hour. Cool trick, huh?”
If you happen to think so—well, he does Bar Mitzvahs.
See It If: You keep Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul on your nightstand.
Skip It If: You just didn’t get the Coen Brothers‘ A Serious Man.