In a world where good stories bring people from various paths together, “The Arc: A Trilogy of New Jewish Plays” shines a bright light on the rich variety of Jewish life in today’s Britain. At Soho Theatre, we’re taken on a journey where birth, marriage, and even the hamster’s passing away are woven with Jewish customs and a touch of laughter and positivity. Plus, a hint of marzipan and fruitcake sweetness makes it all a tad more special (that cake on stage looked yummy, to be honest!).
Director Kayla Feldman’s creative vision blends modern and traditional elements seamlessly on stage, crafting a wonderful atmosphere that feels authentic. This trilogy’s introduction of Jewish culture to a wider audience comes in an easy-to-understand package, mixed with family situations that just feel familiar, no matter which culture or faith the audience identifies with.
“The Arc” lightly touches on Jewish culture, giving a slight taste of traditions, but without being overwhelming. In terms of “serious” content, I counted 2 prayer scenes and 1 minor Auschwitz reference, which gave a good base for the stories but at the same time, without outshining the generally jolly theme. All 3 plays take a break from the usual serious Jewish theatre narratives and just deliver a pleasant night out (trust me, the audience was responding quite loudly to all the jokes on the night I saw the show). I almost could think of this set of stories as a fun alternative to a Netflix night – just like you would be checking out 3 episodes online, here you get to experience little comedic delights in a short and sweet form.
In “Birth,” by Amy Rosenthal, family emotions unfold like a puzzle, from simple crossword chat to heartfelt discussions. In this story, the dialogues were a highlight, impressive with their natural progression from casual crossword guessing to a passionate, lively argument. The portrayal of Michael (Nigel Planer) struck a chord with me, as his character felt reminiscent of my grandfather in the way he was written and conveyed on stage – such a delight to watch. I quite enjoyed continuously guessing the next steps of the play, and figuring out the final resolution to who the mysterious guest (Dorothea Myer-Benett) was and what was the reason for her visit. It’s a classic “who did it and why” kind of story, but served in such an enjoyable, short form!
“Marriage,” written by Alexis Zegerman, guides the audience through modern dating and mixes history with today’s romance. As Adrian and Eva navigate love and history, their connection is both personal and part of a bigger story.
The writers of the play sent a subtle wink towards the audience here, with the way they approached the traditional “Be Fruitful and Multiply” approach. Abigail Weinstock and Dan Wolff managed to pull off an awkward atmosphere of a first date (and not just once but multiple times!).
Then in “Death” by Ryan Craig, family ties are explored with a mixture of humour and heart. Even in the face of challenges such as divorce and illness, the embrace of age-old traditions binds a family together, evoking both laughter and deep emotional connections. The little twist that’s used here to ponder on death and traditional funerals is brilliant. The story serves the biggest surprise element at the very end, as a hero from another story makes a surprise – causing the audience (myself included) to burst with laughter. Well done for a short play about death!
The cast delivered performances that shined as brilliantly as the North Star. Nigel Planer’s portrayal of Michael and Godfrey brought a smile to my face, as he effortlessly stole the spotlight. Dorothea Myer-Bennett’s Naomi was a whirlwind of energy, leaving an indelible mark with her impeccable timing and charismatic presence.
“The Arc: A Trilogy of New Jewish Plays” is a celebration of culture and stories. From August 15th to August 26th, 2023, catch these captivating tales at Soho Theatre (click here for tickets). Don’t miss out on these heartwarming stories that show how we’re all connected, and maybe even get a chuckle or two along the way!
*I received the ticket in exchange for an honest review of the show