On a narrow, winding street in Manhattan’s West Village, a sign of hope: A production that had darkened just before Christmas, when the Omicron variant descended on the city, was premiered again at the Cherry Lane Theatre. .
Sure, that’s what comedian Alex Edelman’s public followers have said will happen when his personal show, “Just for us, ” Suddenly cut short its uptime there in December, promising a comeback on January 24. But when a product goes into pandemic hibernation, it’s easy to worry that it will not reappear.
After that, the return of “Just for Us” is a welcome development, all the more so because it is such a laugh-out-loud comedy show. A quick, clever provocative monologue, it’s about race and identity in American culture, and about the tantalizing urge to reach across the abyss to the hardline bigots among us.
Such as white supremacists, Edelman told us, tweeted a public invitation to a meeting they were holding in Queens – although when he did arrest them, he did walk like an intruder. Hopefully no one will realize he’s Jewish, he doesn’t really have unity in his mind. But then he stalks an attractive woman he calls Chelsea, and decides to strike up a conversation with her.
“I thought to myself, no irony: You never know,” he said, and widened his eyes at his own stupidity.
He recounts the story of that pre-pandemic gathering, which begins with racists rallying to talk about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s recent wedding, with recollections of his childhood That’s when his mother, trying to comfort a lost friend, decided that their Orthodox Jewish family would throw a Christmas celebration for her, full of presents and a tree. With a fidelity on top.
Are the dreidel details correct? An embellishment? Either way, it works. Tom Stoppard also made a similar joke in his recent epic play.Leopoldstadt, ”Only the top of the tree is the Star of David. The two shows are apples and oranges, but anti-Semitism and assimilation are major themes in both. Stoppard is writing about Nazi Germany in history, while Edelman disparages 21st-century bigots as “Nazi Nerfs”: pathetic bastards. “These are not winners in life,” he said.
Directed by Adam Brace, “Just for Us” is inherently a political hit by a comedian who says he tends to avoid talking politics on stage. (“Because it lets everyone down!” Edelman explodes near the top.) It’s about whiteness, the perks that come with it, and the hierarchy—as he saw growing up in Boston – evaluating the descendant of the Mayflower as an aspirational American ideal.
More philosophically, the show pokes fun at and promotes empathy and morality, as well as the ways in which all types of people live together, making it easier to discard their humanity. It is an observation that is clearly relevant in the midst of this ideologically polarizing public health crisis.
“It’s hard to hate close-ups, but of course that’s not true for everyone,” says Edelman. Turns out, the white supremacists at the meeting didn’t seem to have a problem with hating him. It confused them, because part of him wanted them to like him. And yes, he knows it’s ridiculous.
Edelman ends “Just for Us” on a fun and humorous climax: by recounting his petty, perfect act of revenge against white supremacists. The show itself is seen as another revenge – bigger, bolder, and with the audience at Cherry Lane firmly on his side.
Just for us
Through February 19 at the Cherry Lane Theater, Manhattan; cherrylanetheatre.org. Running time: 1 hour 15 minutes.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/24/theater/just-for-us-review.html Review: ‘Just for Us’ Reaches Over the Abyss