Review: I DID IT MY WAY IN YIDDISH (IN ENGLISH)

by Lynn on May 24, 2017

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Factory Theatre Studio, Toronto, Ont.

Written and performed by Deb Filler
Directed by John Shooter

Deb Filler is hilarious. The New Zealand born comedienne has traveled the world making people laugh, especially in her adopted home of Toronto. She performed her one-woman show, I Lost It In Kiev in Toronto in 2014; done comedy TV; participated in the comedy documentary, The Last Laugh and was terrific in serious roles in Talking Heads a few years ago and in Death of a Salesman in Toronto in Yiddish, last year. She is presenting her new one-woman show I Did It My Way In Yiddish (in English) at the Factory Theatre Studio until May 28.

Music had always been important to Deb Filler’s family. Her grandmother loved opera and asked a young Deb to conduct her using a banana as the baton. Her father, a baker, always thought established stars such as Judy Garland would have gone so much further had they sung in Yiddish.

Filler is so devoted to music that she accompanies herself and frequently the audience on a guitar as she strums and sings some of her favourite songs from the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra and the beloved Judy Garland. She takes her father’s advice to heart and sings some of her favourite songs in Yiddish. Very funny.

She tells very funny stories involving Leonard Bernstein, Leonard Cohen and a Jewish rock and roller named Lenny. These three Lenny stories are the heart of I Did It My Way In Yiddish (in English). Filler is charming, personable, knows how to work an audience and the three Lenny stories are gems of humour. The show is directed with a minimum of fussy staging by John Shooter.

I do have concerns though. The shape of the show is problematic. Filler greets the audience from the stage and almost immediately takes her guitar and launches into various pop songs that she loves. There are several of them that made me wonder when the show would start. Surely this show is not a concert? With respect, Filler is not a strong singer and is ok on the guitar. I wonder when the humour will start. The songs should be shifted to another part of the show, perhaps after a comedic beginning.

In the patter Deb Filler seems tentative, as if she didn’t have enough rehearsal. I think that odd since she says she has been touring the show around the world. And finally this show has the most unnecessary, busy, distracting lighting design I have ever seen in a small show. During a musical sequence all the lights facing the stage flick on and off which prove to be extremely distracting, with little sense of illuminating Filler at all. At first I thought it might be the lighting computer run amok. But then the same effect is used later in another musical moment and I realize it is deliberate. Often the lights go from simple illumination to burning brightly on Filler, again, for no reason. If this is the suggestion of the usually reliable director John Shooter, may I suggest that simple is best—cut every single lighting effect and stick to just illuminating Filler so we can see her properly. And while I realize singing in some standards in Yiddish is the point of the show, sometimes the joke misses the mark when too many songs are sung in Yiddish to show how funny it can be.

Humour is Deb Filler’s forte. I Did It May Way In Yiddish (in English) needs another shaping and thinking so that humour is front and centre and not distracted by too many songs that don’t help the point.

Opened: May 23, 2017.
Closes: May 28, 2017.
Running Time: 80 minutes

www.factorytheatre.ca

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