New York Times THEATER REVIEWS
By LAWRENCE VAN GELDER
Published: December 25, 2003
Celebration of a Talesmith
'Sholom Aleichem - Now You're Talking!'
Once upon a time, in the millenniums before television, before radio, before movies, people cherished the storyteller, perhaps never more than on the long dark nights that carried the chill of winter and roused a yearning to be transported to realms of the imagination.
So it is a pleasure to report that the joy of sharing the company of a gifted storyteller is to be found these days just off Union Square at 103 East 15th Street, where the admirable London-based actor Saul Reichlin is channeling the tales of that master Sholom Aleichem (1859-1916).
The medium is Mr. Reichlin's warm and witty one-man show, "Sholom Aleichem - Now You're Talking!," which plays through Feb. 1. Directed in its New York version by Derek Goldman, this two-act assortment of stories casts Mr. Reichlin as the storyteller and all the varied and engaging characters who populate the shtetl of Kasrilevkeh in the Russia of the czars and the days of pogroms against the Jews.
Here, once again, is the poor Kasrilevkite who journeys to Paris, talks his way into the home of Rothschild, the richest Jew in the world, and sells him the one thing he lacks the secret of eternal life. Here, too, are the twins Maier and Schnaier and the question Reb Yosifel is asked to decide: which twin is to get his late father's seat in the synagogue. And here is the rattlebrained real estate agent who finally makes a deal, sends a telegram to his wife promising to be home without fail for Passover and manages to miss the Kasrilevkeh express.
There are more, too, including the matchmaker Menachem Mendel from Yehupetz; the immortal Tevye, and the story of the good deed that earns him his start as a dairyman; the unfortunate fellow who volunteers to transport another man's dead wife; and, in the holiday spirit, the children hoping to amass a ruble in Hanukkah gifts.
If the stories are a pleasure to hear, Mr. Reichlin is a pleasure to behold. Wearing a black tunic, baggy black pants, a broad black belt and black boots, he is an engaging narrator who transforms his expressive face and supple body into all manner of characters. Men and women, young and old, fools and wise men, the drunks, the generous, the devious, the rich and the poor all spring to life.