Jews, Christians, and Screwing Stalin

Critics

LemonMeter

53 %

Reviews: 16

Audience

LemonMeter

Reviews: 0

Took A Cab Productions and the world-famous Improv comedy club chain present an outrageous comedy, inspired by a true story, about family dysfunction, atonement and matzo balls. On the eve of Rosh Hashanah in 1967, Joey brings his pregnant, Christian fiancée home to meet the radical communist bubby who raised him. Minka Grazonsky is tough as nails — and why not? Her brother was the first president of Stalin's Soviet Union. When Joey's alcoholic father shows up at the table, alliances are challenged and new beginnings forged... maybe. Acclaimed TV and film actor John Pleshette (Knots Landing, Murder One, Curb Your Enthusiasm) and stand-up comedian and actress Cathy Ladman (I'm Dying Up Here, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Scandal) — a late-night favorite who has made numerous appearances on The Tonight Show and has her own HBO One Night Stand special — anchor the ensemble cast Aug. 18–Sept. 23; Saturdays @ 8 p.m. / Sundays @ 3 p.m. / Mondays @ 8 p.m.; $35; Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90046; (323) 960-4412; www.Plays411.com/Matzoballs.

Reviews

“Jews, Christians And Stealing Stalin,” is a beautifully constructed play, written by Mark Lonow and Jo Anne Astrow, and directed by Mark Lonow, and is in essence, a light comedy about dark secrets; kitchen table Jewish humor, just as we face the holiest day of the calendar, Yom Kippur, the day of Atonement. ...Amidst all the chaos and conflicts, will there finally be resolution? Come see for yourself… at the Matrix Theatre. LA theatre-goers are lucky indeed to have such a production in town!

sweet - Bonnie Priever - ...read full review


FUNNY… Cheerful, spectacular, fascinating, the play abounds with bright characters, brilliantly performed by talented actors. (translated from Russian)

sweet - Marina Drevnitskaya - Panorama Media Group - ...read full review


Audiences disinterested in provocative material or think pieces a la Pinter and Albee are tailor made for this show. We're talking light, lightweight content here, some chuckles but no rolling in the aisles. It also helps to be Jewish, as Yiddish expressions flow like matzo ball soup before and after Yom Kippur.

sweet-sour - Ingrid Wilmot - Will Call - ...read full review


Wow! That is a lot of detail but what makes the show hilarious are the great performances from all of the actors as they present real life stressors... It is generally accepted that Jewish humor tends to be a bit on the dark side. One great example would be the late great Don Rickles who made a career out of being extremely dark yet side splittingly funny at the same time. Likewise, in Jews, Christians and Screwing Stalinthe humor is abundant, dark, deep and delicious. It is much easier to watch it and enjoy it than it is to try and explain it fully and properly in a review.

sweet - Ron Irwin - LA Post Examiner - ...read full review


Subtler staging might have helped, but Lonow encourages excess at every turn. At least the droll and diverting cast — Pleshette as the patriarch, Ladman as his wife, Julian as the boarder — invest characters with a genuine humanity that transcends stereotypes and atones for much of the sophomoric silliness.

sweet-sour - Kathleen Foley - LA Times - ...read full review


Overall I enjoyed this comedy which mixes Groucho with Karl Marx - Lonow's background in sitcoms, producer of Lewis Black cable TV specials and as longtime co-owner of the Improv comedy clubs shines through. The play, which is subtitled A Light Comedy About Dark Jews, is more than fun than a barrel of schnorrers. You don't have to be Jewish to love Jews, Christians and Screwing Stalin - a real Jewish comedy.

sweet - Ed Rampell - Free Press - ...read full review


The story is interesting, but the play is not. It's obvious the characters are all based on the real family members and boarders at the Brighton Beach home of cowriter/director Mark Lonow's eccentric Trotskyite grandparents when he was a kid growing up in the 1950s and '60s, but one has to wonder what made this troupe of veteran actors give up their fall evenings to be a part of this tremendous waste of time and talent.

sour - Travis Michael Holder - TicketHolders LA - ...read full review


The acting was great and thoroughly enjoyable. As we said, you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy the play and anyone with crazy, dysfunctional family members will relate to these characters.

sweet-sour - Serita Stevens - Splash Magazine - ...read full review


Playwright Lonow does not fare much better as a director. The ensemble's over the top style of delivery doesn't work given the limitations of the material.

sour - Iris Mann - Stage Raw - ...read full review


Subtitled "A Light Comedy About Dark Jews," we meet Bubby as she prepares a much-too-salty matzo ball soup for Rosh Hashanah dinner in a period-perfect kitchen as the center piece of a realistic two-story set designed by Joel Daavid in anticipation of her entire family gathering to celebrate the holiday. This uproarious comedy recounting the true story of Mark Lonow's own family on the eve of Rosh Hashanah in 1967 will be generating laughter to the point of belly aches and plotzing for a very long time!

sweet - Shari Barrett - Broadway World - ...read full review


Joel David's scenic design is cozy and suggests the maze-like rooms in this 1966 boarding house. Donny Jackson's lighting, Joseph Slawinski's sound, and Wendell C. Carmichael's costumes add a touch of authenticity to this moment in history. The cast – with special kudos to Cathy Ladman – do a bang-up job of bringing life to a time past.

sweet-sour - Elaine Mura - LA Splash - ...read full review


“Jews, Christians and Screwing Stalin” is a love letter to a bubbe and an opportunity for some older actors to shine. It isn't ready for Broadway yet, but that's what Equity waiver is for.

sweet-sour - Ethlie Ann Vare - The Hollywood Times - ...read full review


The staging is haphazard; people make a lot of noise on one side of the stage but then “sneak up” on people and surprise them. The geography of Joel Daavid's set doesn't feel like an actual building in New York. The physical comedy is labored, with unfunny toilet humor, mocked physical ailments, hyperventilating under tables, and father/son penis comparisons. It's like Lonow and Astrow don't trust the material enough so they've added schtick. The characters themselves are pretty funny. Gilding the lily undercuts rather than enhances that humor.

sour - Samuel Garza Bernstein - Stage and Cinema - ...read full review


In general, the style of humor is broad and slapstick—physical comedy bits such as the aforementioned beating someone with a chicken and various gags regarding slamming doors and plumbing problems in the house are alternated with occasional fart jokes and references to the size of certain body parts. Fans of this style of humor will find plenty to chuckle at, but it is ultimately not a very memorable holiday dinner.

sour - Erin Conley - On Stage and Screen - ...read full review


I was drawn to see this play because of the sociopolitical context promised—and I freely acknowledge that would not have been the priority for every theatergoer—but in the end it seems the “Improv” mentality won out. Lonow was recently quoted in Broadway World, saying, “There is nothing today that can't be joked about. If you get the laugh, the topic is acceptable,” however rude, crude or lewd. The whole Communist angle is little more than a coatrack on which to hang a joke-filled tale of atonement for past misbehavior and a promising family reconciliation.

sour - Eric A Gordon - People's World - ...read full review


From the seeds of heartbreak and anger comes a play brimming with love...and sarcasm. The play is based on playwright and director Mark Lonow's own Russian-Jewish socialist family and the characters Joseph and Caitlin are based on him and his wife of 49 years, co-writer Jo Anne Astrow. Because of this, there is an authenticity to the characters, particularly family matriarch Minka, who just wants to bring what's left of her family back together.

sweet - Kathy Flynn - Discover Hollywood - ...read full review


“Jews, Christians And Stealing Stalin,” is a beautifully constructed play, written by Mark Lonow and Jo Anne Astrow, and directed by Mark Lonow, and is in essence, a light comedy about dark secrets; kitchen table Jewish humor, just as we face the holiest day of the calendar, Yom Kippur, the day of Atonement. ...Amidst all the chaos and conflicts, will there finally be resolution? Come see for yourself… at the Matrix Theatre. LA theatre-goers are lucky indeed to have such a production in town!

sweet - Bonnie Priever - ...read full review


FUNNY… Cheerful, spectacular, fascinating, the play abounds with bright characters, brilliantly performed by talented actors. (translated from Russian)

sweet - Marina Drevnitskaya - Panorama Media Group - ...read full review


Audiences disinterested in provocative material or think pieces a la Pinter and Albee are tailor made for this show. We're talking light, lightweight content here, some chuckles but no rolling in the aisles. It also helps to be Jewish, as Yiddish expressions flow like matzo ball soup before and after Yom Kippur.

sweet-sour - Ingrid Wilmot - Will Call - ...read full review


Wow! That is a lot of detail but what makes the show hilarious are the great performances from all of the actors as they present real life stressors... It is generally accepted that Jewish humor tends to be a bit on the dark side. One great example would be the late great Don Rickles who made a career out of being extremely dark yet side splittingly funny at the same time. Likewise, in Jews, Christians and Screwing Stalinthe humor is abundant, dark, deep and delicious. It is much easier to watch it and enjoy it than it is to try and explain it fully and properly in a review.

sweet - Ron Irwin - LA Post Examiner - ...read full review


Subtler staging might have helped, but Lonow encourages excess at every turn. At least the droll and diverting cast — Pleshette as the patriarch, Ladman as his wife, Julian as the boarder — invest characters with a genuine humanity that transcends stereotypes and atones for much of the sophomoric silliness.

sweet-sour - Kathleen Foley - LA Times - ...read full review


Overall I enjoyed this comedy which mixes Groucho with Karl Marx - Lonow's background in sitcoms, producer of Lewis Black cable TV specials and as longtime co-owner of the Improv comedy clubs shines through. The play, which is subtitled A Light Comedy About Dark Jews, is more than fun than a barrel of schnorrers. You don't have to be Jewish to love Jews, Christians and Screwing Stalin - a real Jewish comedy.

sweet - Ed Rampell - Free Press - ...read full review


The story is interesting, but the play is not. It's obvious the characters are all based on the real family members and boarders at the Brighton Beach home of cowriter/director Mark Lonow's eccentric Trotskyite grandparents when he was a kid growing up in the 1950s and '60s, but one has to wonder what made this troupe of veteran actors give up their fall evenings to be a part of this tremendous waste of time and talent.

sour - Travis Michael Holder - TicketHolders LA - ...read full review


The acting was great and thoroughly enjoyable. As we said, you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy the play and anyone with crazy, dysfunctional family members will relate to these characters.

sweet-sour - Serita Stevens - Splash Magazine - ...read full review


Playwright Lonow does not fare much better as a director. The ensemble's over the top style of delivery doesn't work given the limitations of the material.

sour - Iris Mann - Stage Raw - ...read full review


Subtitled "A Light Comedy About Dark Jews," we meet Bubby as she prepares a much-too-salty matzo ball soup for Rosh Hashanah dinner in a period-perfect kitchen as the center piece of a realistic two-story set designed by Joel Daavid in anticipation of her entire family gathering to celebrate the holiday. This uproarious comedy recounting the true story of Mark Lonow's own family on the eve of Rosh Hashanah in 1967 will be generating laughter to the point of belly aches and plotzing for a very long time!

sweet - Shari Barrett - Broadway World - ...read full review


Joel David's scenic design is cozy and suggests the maze-like rooms in this 1966 boarding house. Donny Jackson's lighting, Joseph Slawinski's sound, and Wendell C. Carmichael's costumes add a touch of authenticity to this moment in history. The cast – with special kudos to Cathy Ladman – do a bang-up job of bringing life to a time past.

sweet-sour - Elaine Mura - LA Splash - ...read full review


“Jews, Christians and Screwing Stalin” is a love letter to a bubbe and an opportunity for some older actors to shine. It isn't ready for Broadway yet, but that's what Equity waiver is for.

sweet-sour - Ethlie Ann Vare - The Hollywood Times - ...read full review


The staging is haphazard; people make a lot of noise on one side of the stage but then “sneak up” on people and surprise them. The geography of Joel Daavid's set doesn't feel like an actual building in New York. The physical comedy is labored, with unfunny toilet humor, mocked physical ailments, hyperventilating under tables, and father/son penis comparisons. It's like Lonow and Astrow don't trust the material enough so they've added schtick. The characters themselves are pretty funny. Gilding the lily undercuts rather than enhances that humor.

sour - Samuel Garza Bernstein - Stage and Cinema - ...read full review


In general, the style of humor is broad and slapstick—physical comedy bits such as the aforementioned beating someone with a chicken and various gags regarding slamming doors and plumbing problems in the house are alternated with occasional fart jokes and references to the size of certain body parts. Fans of this style of humor will find plenty to chuckle at, but it is ultimately not a very memorable holiday dinner.

sour - Erin Conley - On Stage and Screen - ...read full review


I was drawn to see this play because of the sociopolitical context promised—and I freely acknowledge that would not have been the priority for every theatergoer—but in the end it seems the “Improv” mentality won out. Lonow was recently quoted in Broadway World, saying, “There is nothing today that can't be joked about. If you get the laugh, the topic is acceptable,” however rude, crude or lewd. The whole Communist angle is little more than a coatrack on which to hang a joke-filled tale of atonement for past misbehavior and a promising family reconciliation.

sour - Eric A Gordon - People's World - ...read full review


From the seeds of heartbreak and anger comes a play brimming with love...and sarcasm. The play is based on playwright and director Mark Lonow's own Russian-Jewish socialist family and the characters Joseph and Caitlin are based on him and his wife of 49 years, co-writer Jo Anne Astrow. Because of this, there is an authenticity to the characters, particularly family matriarch Minka, who just wants to bring what's left of her family back together.

sweet - Kathy Flynn - Discover Hollywood - ...read full review