In Philadelphia Theatre Company's production of
25 Questions for a Jewish Mother
, Judy Gold lets you know you're among
(family) right from the get-go. "My apartment building is like a kibbutz," says the 6-foot-3 Jewish kosher lesbian comedian and single mother of two - "everyone is always helping everyone out." In Gold's one-woman show, cowritten by Kate Moira Ryan, Manhattan's Upper West Side is a glorified shtetl, her children's godparents live next door, and Tevye sings not about "Tradition!" but "Rent Control!"
was six years in the making and involves interviews with some 50 Jewish mothers: reform, conservative, ultra-orthodox, non-practicing. Gold believes fear makes Jewish mothers (including her own) the hovering, neurotic stereotypes they've become - the kind of fear that drove one interviewee to find a Christian couple who would agree to take her children, "just in case."
The show is a sort of
Chicken Soup for Judy Gold's Soul
(Gold is a veteran of Eve Ensler's touring juggernaut), as she attempts to find out if there are any Jewish mothers out there like her, "or are they all, God forbid, like my mother?"
While she gets some predictably funny and poignant answers to her question, the show's sociological pretensions are really just props that allow Gold to relay her autobiography within a cultural context. There are many kinds of Jewish mothers, she explains, and some will surprise you - but enough about them, let's get back to me. I'm not entirely sure she got through all 25 questions. Or 15, for that matter.
And so we follow Gold as she sings along to Streisand in her room as a child, goes on a comedy tour, argues with her partner and her mother, tells us where she was on Sept. 11, repeats cute anecdotes about her sons, and uncovers the key to her mother's relentlessly negative psyche.
It's not that she's a dull subject, it's just that you have to really be into Judy Gold to want to watch her work out her mommy issues onstage for 70 minutes. And believe me, as a Jewish mother descended from many generations of Jewish mothers, I know from mommy issues.
As instructed by Philadelphia Theatre Company's ads, I even brought my own mother, who chuckled along and elbowed me knowingly when Gold mentioned something about her mother attempting to serve her a loaf of rye bread frozen since 1977. (In the back of my mother's freezer, petrifying in foil, is the last surviving blintz handcrafted by her own mother.)
So perhaps it's only appropriate to let my mother have the last word: "It was all right, but I thought she'd be funnier. I had a nice time at dinner, though."
Want to hear all about it? Yes? Well then, have I got a show for you.
Through Sunday at Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 S. Broad St. Tickets: $49.50. Information: 215-985-0420 or