‘Yentl’ and Neil Simon’s ‘Sunshine Boys’ part of NJT’s 2015-2016 season

The New Jewish Theatre’s 19th season will feature five plays that examine the full range of the human condition reflected through the lens of the Jewish experience. 

The season opener, Oct. 8 to Nov. 1, will be the Neil Simon classic, “The Sunshine Boys,” directed by Doug Finlayson. The play features Al Lewis and Willie Clark, who as “Lewis and Clark,” were top-billed vaudevillians for over 40 years. But they haven’t spoken in over a decade. Now CBS is inviting them to reunite for a “History of Comedy” retrospective. A grudging reunion brings them back together, along with a flood of memories, miseries and laughs. NJT Artistic Associate Bobby Miller will play the irascible Willie Clark, and actor Gerry Becker will portray Lewis.

From Dec. 3 to 20, “Bad Jews” explores and exposes family dynamics in an explosive way when three cousins who have come together for their grandfather’s shiva, wrestle over the ownership of his “chai” necklace. Daphna Feygenbaum declares herself a “real Jew” as compared to cousin Liam who has brought his non-Jewish girlfriend Melody along. A comedic family brawl ensues. St. Louis’ Fringe Festival Em Piro will portray Daphna. Sydnie Grosberg Ronga directs the production.

A haunting, one-person meditation on time and devotion “Underneath the Lintel,” will play from Jan. 28 to Feb. 13. Playwright Glen Berger (2013 Jewish Book Festival) has penned a metaphysical detective story involving a returned library book, 113 years overdue with a clue scribbled in the margin and an unclaimed dry-cleaning ticket. The Dutch librarian begins a life-changing quest with an obsession to find the owner, following multiple clues spanning the world and the centuries. The erstwhile librarian will be played by New York-based actress Glynis Bell, who has frequently appeared at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Lana Pepper will direct.

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Coming to NJT in March (March 17 to April 3) is a play that appeared at the Rep’s Studio Theatre in 1997 and was so successful, it was remounted on the mainstage the following season. “Old Wicked Songs” by Jon Marans, is the inspirational journey of two very different men, with music as their one common bond. Each must find a way to break through his personal and artistic pasts. The young American piano prodigy has travelled to Vienna to try to reconnect with his music and shatter the artistic block that’s plagued his career. To his surprise he is assigned to work first with a vocal teacher. The two have a prickly relationship but Marans creates a link between the two generations of men, one a seeming anti-Semite, the other a Jew, who find they have much more in common than they think. Nationally known theatre and opera director Tim Ocel directs the production.

The season closes with a play with the music-filled play “Yentl,” based on the Isaac B. Singer short story, “Yentl the Yeshiva Boy” and written for the stage by Leah Napolin and Singer. The play, directed by NJT Artistic Associate Edward Coffield, runs May 12 to June 5. It tells the story of a young girl in 19th-century Eastern Europe forbidden to pursue her dream of studying Talmud. Unwilling to accept her fate, she disguises herself as a man. But when she falls in love, Yentl must make some choices. The play ran on Broadway 40 years ago starring Tovah Feldshuh as the title character, and was originally without music. It has been updated with new music and lyrics by indie-rock-folk-klezmer musician Jill Sobule. This is a story about the mystery of appearances, the deceptions of the heart, and the divine androgyny of the soul.

Season tickets are now available for the five productions at $170 for Jewish Community Center members and $180 general admission. Season tickets can be ordered online at newjewishtheatre.org or by calling 314-442-3283. Single tickets will be available beginning Aug. 15.