Regional Reviews: New Jersey
Crossing Delancey or Bubbie Knows Best
Even if you are unfamiliar with the popular 1988 film version of the play Crossing Delancey, that line should give you a very good idea as to what awaits audiences on stage at the Bickford Theatre, where Susan Sandler's charming, old fashioned, ethnic romantic comedy is enjoying a loving revival.
Izzy, the bookish manager of a small Upper West Side bookstore, obsesses romantically over customer Tyler Moss, a preening writing professor and minor novelist for whom she barely exists. Visiting her beloved Bubbie every Sunday in the latter's Lower East Side high-rise apartment appears to be the sum total of her social life. Unbeknownst to Izzy, Ida and neighborhood shadkhn (marriage broker) Hannah Mandelbaum have arranged for Izzy to meet with Sam, who is the proprietor of a Ludlow Street pickle stand. Izzy protests, "Bubbie, this isn't the way I live. This is a hundred years ago. This isn't me." Sounds funny, no. However, contrary to our anticipation, Sam, who is determined to win Izzy's heart, proves to be a jewel, a sensitive polished diamond with literary ambitions.
Bryna Weiss seems a perfect match for the role of Bubbie Ida. Whether lovingly harassing Izzy, fighting with Hannah, charming Sam, or delighting in the praise she receives from each for her exceptional cooking and baking, Weiss' performance is all of a bustling, life-affirming piece. Elyse Wolf manages to convince us that, because of her dutifulness to her grandmother, the educated, modern Izzy might sit still for a date with "the pickle man". Maybe, just maybe, in 1985, the year in which Crossing Delancey was first produced and during which it is set, some grandparents and parents may still have gotten away with such overbearing behavior. However, the worm has turned, and it is the elders who now bow to the mishegoss (craziness) of the younger generations.
Garth Kravits' Sam is as too good to be true, as Susan Sandler's script requires. Kravits' likeability is off the charts. Jonathan Holtzman is effortlessly snarky as Tyler. Vicki Tripodo delivers a fine comic performance as the domineering and avaricious Hannah.
Thom Christopher Warren has elicited a solid ensemble performance from his fine cast, and fluidly keeps the action flowing among the three areas (kitchen, book store, park bench) of Roman Klima's effective set.
The charm and warmth of Crossing Delancey provides a pleasing antidote to the courser humor which is so popular today.
Crossing Delancey continues performances through February 14, 2010 (Thursday-Saturday 8pm/ Sundays 2pm) at the Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, 6 Normandy Heights Road, Morristown, NJ 07960, Box Office: 973-971-3706; online: www.bickfordtheatre.org.
Crossing Delancey by Susan Sandler; directed by Thom Christopher Warren