Stars of the Yiddish Stage
Dr. Stephen Fleet | Peabody, Massachusetts USA | 03/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD may not be for everyone, but if you're interested in the Yiddish stage and Jewish history of the 20th century, it's an exceptionally well done documentary.
The Komediant (meaning the actor more so than comedian) tells the story of the Burstein family, Yiddish stage actors both in Europe and the U.S. The backdrop is Jewish immigration to the U.S., and how the New York theater becomes the epicenter of the Yiddish cultural world, particularly crucial when German persecution rises in Europe.
Family life and the actors' life on the road, cultural tensions between Yiddish and non-Yiddish theater, and the early conflicts between Yiddish and Hebrew in Israel all weave together in an interesting tale."
Wonderful look back at a vanished world
Alan A. Elsner | Washington DC | 09/06/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This utterly charming, heart-warming movie looks back at the Yiddish theater through the eyes of one family. Pesach'ke Burstein began his career in Poland in the early years of the 20th century when he ran away from home to join a theater troupe. He arrived in New York in the 1920s and was an immediate star. His story is told mainly by his widow and co-star Lillian Lux (Pesach'ke died in 1986) and his son and daughter Mike and Susan who as young infants joined their parents on the stage.
We travel with this family all over the world -- to Poland where the Bursteins barely got out ahead of the Nazis in 1939; to Israel where the Zionist establishment tried to wipe out Yiddish as a language of the shameful diaspora, imposed a special tax on theater conducted in foreign languages and included Yiddish in this category (Israel wanted everyone to speak Hebrew); and to New York and the Catskills where we visit one of the great old resorts where so many talented comedians got their start, now fallen into sad disrepair.
Of course, there is a sad trajectory to this story. Yiddish, once so vibrant, is barely spoken nowadays and the stars of yesteryear are all in the cemetery. But this story is told with such vigor and enthusiasm that it overcomes any melancholy and ends up being a stirring affirmation of life. The movie also doesn't avoid the rifts the family experienced, although there is never any doubt about the love they all felt for one another.
Pesach'ke's amazing bird whistling and Susan's ventriloquism are a special high point.
You want to know what inspired movies and musicals like "The Producers?" Watch this."