Through May 27 at Exit Stage Left, 156 Eddy (between Mason and Taylor), S.F. Admission is $14; call 602-4387.
Goodbye and Good Luck/
Word for Word and A Traveling Jewish Theater have teamed up to stage two great short stories, and the results are mixed. Director Wendy Radford stumbles a bit with Grace Paley's "Goodbye and Good Luck"; Patricia Silver as Aunt Rose manages moments of sweet melancholy, but what's lacking in her performance is Rose's energetic triumph. The story is a monologue in which Rose tells her niece that she's getting married to the former idol of the Yiddish stage Volodya Vlashkin (Corey Fischer, who flogs the same hammy note, though Vlashkin's retired). Despite the disapproval of Rose's mother and sister, Rose had an affair with Volodya when she worked at his theater -- even though he was married at the time. The speech demonstrates how Rose's unconventional life and choices have been completely justified, and reading the story leaves you giddy with delight. This production dampens that pleasure, and instead of cheering at the end, you smile wistfully. (Playing various characters, Sheila Balter and Adrian Elfenbaum capture more of the story's spirit than does Silver.)
However, in mounting Bernard Malamud's fable "The Jewbird," director David Dower gets everything right. Jeri Lynn Cohen as Edie Cohen and Albert Greenberg as Harry Cohen are a perfect picture of late '50s/early '60s American Jewish domesticity: Edie looks at her well-appointed breakfast table, spreads her hands, and announces, "Morning," as if it were her housekeeping that made the sun rise each day. Harry reads his paper ensconced in his comfortable abode, at first irritated and then exploding at the messy cultural history their intrusive guest represents. As Schwartz the Jewbird, Fischer is both annoying and touching -- an old relative you love, but who still drives you crazy. Balter rounds out the cast as Maurie, the Cohen son, her hair slicked back as she pores over comic books. With "The Jewbird," Word for Word's word-perfect approach to short fiction uses intelligence and creativity to expand the original, while in "Goodbye and Good Luck," despite some small pleasures, Paley's unique voice is diminished.
Through June 4 at A Traveling Jewish Theater, 470 Florida (near Mariposa), S.F. Admission is $20-25; call 399-1809.