Middlebury College Theatre Presents 1920s Jewish Comedy “Mendel, Inc.”
October 16, 2014
Play by David Freedman Will Honor Hillel’s 60th Anniversary on Campus
Author David Freedman was a sketch writer, playwright, and biographer who was known as the “king of the gag writers” in the early days of radio. He wrote “Mendel Inc.” in the late 1920s and it premiered in 1929. The play is a warm, sentimental comedy that takes place in Manhattan’s Jewish community on the Lower East Side. Adapted from Freedman’s successful novel “Mendel Marantz,” the play had more than two hundred performances on Broadway and was later made into the movie “The Heart Of New York.” Both the play and movie starred the famous vaudeville comedy team of Smith and Dale.
The plotline follows title character Mendel Marantz, who is a plumber by trade, but who devotes all his time to inventing products in the hope of earning millions for his wife and children. He is stubbornly committed to fulfilling those dreams of wealth, while risking dispossession and eviction. Harassed by his wife and his in-laws, and suspected of marital infidelity, Mendel is secretly determined to create the ultimate labor-saving household machine.
This production is being produced to celebrate Hillel’s 60th anniversary and is supported by the Department of Theatre, The Scott Center for Spiritual and Religious Life, Hillel, and the Committee on the Arts.
Professor of Theatre Richard Romagnoli will direct the production, featuring Robert Zukerman (pictured) as Mendel, alongside a cast of nearly a dozen Middlebury College students, including Nick Barker ’17, Alexander Burnett ’16, KJ Davidson-Turner ’17.5, Jacob Dombroski ’17, Caitlin Duffy ’15.5, Emma Eastwood-Paticchio ’15, Alex Herdman ’17, Akhila Khanna ’17, Eric McAdams ’16, Joelle Mendoza-Etchart ’15, August Rosenthal ’17, Nolan Schroth-Ellsworth ’17, and Greg Swartz ’17.5. Joining the students is Middlebury College faculty member and actor Tom Beyer. The design team includes theatre faculty and staff members Mark Evancho (scenic design ); Hallie Zieselman (lighting design); Jule Emerson (costume design). The technical team includes Allison Rimmer (technical director); Jim Dougherty (associate technical director and props); Marcia Provoncha ( costume director); Annie Ulrich ’13 (associate costume director); with students Hannah Phelps ’18 as stage manager, and Nick Barker /17 and KJ Davidson-Turner ’17.5 as assistant stage managers.
Audience members who wish to learn more may attend the Behind-the-Scenes Lunch and Discussion on Tuesday, October 28, 2014, at 12:30 P.M. at Wright Memorial Theater. The cast, crew, and design team will explore the themes and challenges in the upcoming production. This event is free to Middlebury College ID cardholders; a $5 donation is suggested for community members.
“Mendel, Inc.” will be performed on Thursday, October 30; Friday, October 31; and Saturday, November 1; all at 7:30 P.M. each evening, at Wright Memorial Theater. Tickets are $12 for the general public; $10 for Middlebury College faculty, staff, alumni, emeriti, and other ID card holders; and $6 for Middlebury College students. The theatre is located at 96 Chateau Road in Middlebury, just off Route 125/College Street. Free parking is available on College Street and in the parking lot behind the theatre, accessible from Shannon Street. Handicap accessible parking is available in front of the theatre on Chateau Road on performance evenings. For tickets or information, call (802) 443-MIDD (6433) or go to http://go.middlebury.edu/arts.
Photo credit: Robert Zukerman, who plays the title role in Mendel, Inc., appearing in PTP/NYC 2013 production of The Castle. Photo Stan Barouh