Yesterday I ventured into the city to see an off-Broadway show called Not That Jewish. I have to admit that my expectations were low. I couldn’t imagine how a show with such a name would capture my interest. After all, I’m an observing Jew. Did I really want to sit through a one-woman show where an actress moans about being raised Jewish whilst wanting to escape and denounce every bit of Judaism possible later in life?
Fortunately, that’s not what the show is about. Monica Piper, a comedienne with credits that go back 30+ years, while not religious, holds steadfast to her Jewish upbringing and never loses sight of her desire to go through life with her religion close to home. No matter the topic, whether it pertain to her childhood or adulthood, everything in her life serves as a reminder of who she is and where she came from. I could relate to her as a Jew, as a mom, as a citizen. She is heartfelt and passionate about storytelling and tells one good story after another. The 90 minutes went really fast.
The show consists of a recount of pivotal and memorable moments in Piper’s life. Directed by Mark Waldrop, Piper stands on stage alone for just over 90 minutes, telling stories from her life. The staging and set design reminded me very much of seeing Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking, which naturally made me feel very melancholy at the start of the show. But I found myself laughing and relating to much of Piper’s life, and appreciated her humor, as she related many events that led to who she is today. Her experiences include a parent with Alzheimer’s, divorce and a battle with breast cancer. While her Jewishness is not the overall riding factor that helps her get through her problems, it lurks and is her guiding light. When she eventually decides to have a child on her own, adopting later in life, she raises him Jewish despite his own admission of not being Jewish from his birth mother. Comedy is sprinkled throughout the show and I laughed accordingly.
As Piper shares the milestones and moments that shaped her life with the same signature wit found in her writing on Roseanne, Mad About You and her Emmy Award-winning work on Rugrats, I applauded, understanding the challenges involved with motherhood and proud of another mom for fulfilling her dreams.
Not That Jewish, is playing at New World Stages. Get tickets here.
Disclosure: I was provided with complimentary tickets to facilitate this review.