“Oy!” is aggressively Jewish and an absolute joy to watch.
The Brandeis Undergraduate Theater Collective (UTC) put on a delightful performance of “Oy!” this past weekend, and those who didn’t get to see it are truly missing out. The cast was committed to putting on this comedic production and executed each scene so well. “Oy!” is a collection of events, related only in the fact that they all capture the true Jewish experience, from parents calling too much to the power of Jewish guilt.
The show opens with a group of lawyers asking a new member of the team, Miller (Eveyln Inker ’23), the only Gentile in the room, how she is liking it at their firm. It’s full of Yiddish and awkwardness as Miller stumbles around the unfamiliar language. From there, the Jewish lawyers explain that there are stories and meanings for each of the words, breaking into the main parts of the play.
Each scene begins with a voice-over of a Yiddish word, immediately followed by the meaning of the word. The word that is defined sets up the theme of each skit.
Scenes from the show include a retelling of the story of Adam and Eve, a high holiday gone wrong, a group of old men being old, an unexpectedly emotional Chanukah and a study on what turns Jews on. Each scene was as funny, if not funnier, than the previous one. The execution of the lines and the comedic timing of the cast was really a key part in the success of the show.
In the “Good News From Albert” scene, Albert Einstein (Evan Shapiro ’22), calls his mother (Shoshi Finkel ’20) to tell her about his recent success in receiving the Nobel prize. His mother in turn makes it all about her, asking if the prize comes with any money. When Albert says no, Mrs. Einstein takes a turn for the dramatic, moaning about how Albert is going to be too famous to call her and that he already doesn’t call enough. Finkel delivered her lines so well, that for a second I felt like I was on the phone with my actual mother.
The play revisits the theme of Jewish parents wanting more attention from their kids in a later scene, “Close Call.” Chaim (Esther Shimkin ’21) hosts a radio show, essentially asking people to complain on air. Shimkin embodies this character with a men’s business attire and a gravelly voice. Irving (Shapiro) begins with a rant on the Gentiles taking over the bagel industry, while interspersing that his kids only call when they need money. Chaim then replies that he never gets calls because his kids make a decent living. Sadie (Leanna Ugent ’22) follows Irving and complains that her kids don’t call enough.
Finally David (Lucian Dobroszycki ’23), who has been listening to this whole episode go down, speaks up in favor of the kid. In perhaps the greatest moment of the show, he says about his father: “He likes the idea of me calling him, but he never enjoys the call.” Truly the Jewish child experience summed up in just one line. David is distressed throughout the entirety of his impassioned rant, with Dobroszycki pouring real emotion into his lines.
But this production wasn’t a one trick pony; they truly captured every part of the Jewish experience.
The titular scene, “Oy” is a standout moment in the show. Shapiro, Dobroszycki and Harrison Carter ’22 play three old men, grouchy in the early morning. They shuffle their way across the stage, one at a time, each in a robe and slippers, before coming to sit down on a bench. Throughout the whole scene, each man only utters one word: “oy.” Each “oy” is presented uniquely, seeming to capture a different emotion each time. Each performer had a different tone for their old man grunts, and the audience was losing it at every single one. How the boys kept it together, I will never know.
Typically I am not a fan of live theatre, but “Oy!” was an absolute delight from beginning to end. UTC’s production of “Oy!” was so stellar, I’d pay two whole teeth to see it again (if you know, you know).