Review: Yiddish Theater: A Love Story

Dan Katzir’s Yiddish Theater: A Love Story is a documentary of necessary compromises.

Yiddish Theater: A Love Story
Photo: New Love Films

Dan Katzir’s Yiddish Theater: A Love Story is a documentary of necessary compromises. Chronicling the efforts of the late Zypora Spaisman in upholding her Manhattan-based Yiddish theater company (one of the few remaining social vestiges of the culture), the film was shot in casual, homespun form and pieced together over the four years following the unexpected death of its subject, with Katzir’s post-production work obstructed by the scant financial resources at his disposal. A truly independent work, the film’s technical limitations appropriately complement the subject matter, tracking over the course of several days the last-ditch efforts to raise the necessary funds to prevent Zypora’s theater company from closing its doors for good. Katzir’s direction—particularly his attempts to structure the material into a traditional, dramatic narrative—are decidedly awkward in execution, but it is through the films shared determination with its central figure that it becomes an illuminating ode to the struggle of the artist, compounded here by the eradication of Yiddish culture at the hands of both the Holocaust and the imperialistic nature of the English language. The film’s candid personalities provide plenty of memorably off-the-cuff moments (among them, a professor who refers to accountants as idiots), but it is Zypora’s singular commitment toward upholding her heritage against the oppression of a modern society that lingers in the mind. Unfazed by the limitations of her old age, her passion echoes that of another great artist now departed from this earth. Said Robert Altman at the prospect of retirement: “You’re talking about death, right?”

 Cast: Zypora Spaisman, David Romero, Felix Fibich, Sally Dobekirer, Jechil Dobekirer, Shifra Lerer, Roni Neuman, Joad Kohn, Norman Kruger, Hy Wolfe  Director: Dan Katzir  Screenwriter: Dan Katzir, Ravit Markus  Distributor: New Love Films  Running Time: 90 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2006

Rob Humanick

Rob Humanick is an assistant projectionist at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater in Lehighton, Pennsylvania.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Previous Story

Review: 2001: A Space Odyssey

Next Story

A Woman’s Face: Bibi Andersson and Persona at BAM