Written by Daniella Litvak
I can’t think of a better venue for Daniel Cainer’s Gefilte Fish & Chips than a theater underneath a library. The show’s story is about stories. Cainer spends eighty minutes of stage time singing stories about his family, his career as a Jewish entertainer, and a “Bad Rabbi.”
While there are some overlapping elements (such as some of the same people mentioned in more than one song), each piece tells a single, complete story, which gives the impression Cainer is presenting himself as a modern troubadour. The one downside of this style is that it sometimes feels like a song has gone on for too long. But then I’ll hear a cheeky bit of rhyming, and I’m sucked back in.
The songs are funny and tragic, and loving. One stand-out example is “There Are No Jews In Recklinghausen,” which deftly intertwines the pain of the past with quiet awe about a changed attitude towards Jewish culture.
But the theme at the heart of the show is family. It’s touching how appreciative and passionate Cainer is about his family. When he sang about his grandparents, I thought about my own.
The staging is simple. It’s a man, a piano, and a projection screen. At first, the projection screen seems to exist to add some extra atmosphere –such as a projection of the London skyline. After a song was finished, pictures of the people or places the song talked about would appear. I thought that was a friendly reminder that there were real flesh and blood people who lived out these extraordinary tales beneath the joke. Later in the show, the screen becomes a character in its own right –something Cainer can play off –which I thought was a wise decision on the part of the production team. A clip from The Great Escape is used to punctuate a joke. A still of Charlton Heston as Moses looms in the background during the song “Bad Rabbi.” The best use of the screen comes at the end of “Surbiton Washerama.” Though I’m tempted to write about it, the joke is better as a surprise.
Do you have to be Jewish to appreciate the show? This would seem like the perfect moment to get on the soapbox and pontificate about how theater can transcend all barriers. Instead, I’ll say this. The non-Jewish members of the audience were clapping and singing in Yiddish too.
Is the show worth seeing? Isn’t a song about a cocaine-snorting rabbi enough of a draw?
You must buy tickets by phone at (855) 448-7469.
Location & Dates
Feb. 12 – March 22, 2015
Huntington Beach Central Library
7111 Talbert Ave
Huntington Beach, CA 92648