by Lynn on October 29, 2011

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Jane Mallett Theatre. Written and performed by Yisrael Campbell. Directed by Sam Gold.

Produced by the Harold Green Jewish Theatre.

CIRCUMCISE ME! Now there’s a title to get our attention and make us involuntarily cross our legs. CIRCUMCISE ME! is not just the smarty-pants title of a show. It is in fact the rather long and protracted journey that Yisrael Campbell took that led him from Philadelphia, where he was born Christopher Campbell and raised a Catholic, to Israel where he changed his name to Yisrael and converted to Judaism. He first became a Reformed Jew, then a Conservative Jew and Finally an Orthodox Jew. Each conversion required instruction and circumcision. Yes folks, he was circumcised three times.

He began drinking when he was nine years old. He was a full blown alcoholic by the time he was 16. When he was in an accident when he was 17—he swiped the car of a priest and took off—he was told by the priest to get help, which he did.

He moved around. In Los Angeles he met a woman who was a waitress in a restaurant who gave him the novel “Exodus” to read. It changed his life. He was so taken with the story and with the Jewish faith that he made plans to convert, go to Israel and commune with God.

It is a story of tenacity, conviction, frustration, searching, yearning, and finally peace of mind. It is also a story that is full of humour, perception and self-deprecating wit. And no you don’t need to be Jewish to appreciate Campbell’s references.

He’s a very funny man. His humour comes naturally out of situations and the skewered way he looks at things. Don’t expect the lame one-liners from the appalling My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish and I’m in Therapy. Yisrael Campbell’s humour is natural, honest and true. We have all been in some of his thorny situations—getting the run around when he’s trying to find out answers; trying to find answers to life’s great questions; loosing friends to horrible circumstances. Campbell handles all of them with grace, wit, a sense of humour that cuts through differences between people, and a generosity of spirit.

It is directed with a gentle hand by Sam Gold.CIRCUMCISE ME! is a wonderful show and you won’t have to cross your legs to appreciate it.

CIRCUMCISE ME! plays at the Jane Mallett Theatre until November 6.

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