“The God of Isaac” is an irritatingly unconvincing play, despite the earnest charm of its leading man, Adam Korson.
Korson plays Isaac Adams, a Jewish journalist in Chicago happily married to his blonde “shiksa goddess,” a badly wigged fashion model played by Corryn Cummins. Isaac, like so many of his generation, is thoroughly assimilated into the American mainstream. Aware, and even proud of, his Jewish heritage, he is otherwise indifferent to its details.
His placid equilibrium is shattered, however, when the American Nazi Party decides to hold a march in nearby Skokie. This historical event of 1977 was defended in principle by the ACLU and resulted in a massive exodus from that organization by many of its members. For Isaac, the prospective march serves as the catalyst for a “re-thinking” of his religion.
In some well-played scenes with a rabbi (Peter Van Norden), Isaac asks provocative questions about Judaism and its rubrics and is told, “I don’t define Judaism; Judaism defines me.” In another exchange the rabbi adds, “I don’t have all the answers, I just have to learn how to live with the questions.”
A parallel sub-plot introduces Isaac’s old girlfriend (Jennifer Flaks), a religiously prissy young woman who eventually weds a “nice Jewish boy” (Jason Weiss) and winds up in an unpredictably unhappy marriage.
“The God of Isaac” is a bland incontrovertible presentation of an age-old discussion, and director Darin Anthony leads his competent crew through it without mishap. But playwright James Sherman has thrown in a few distracting clunkers. They are funny but extraneous parodies of key scenes in popular movies: the “I coulda been a contendah” scene from “On The Waterfront,” for example.
The major clunk, however, is the role of Isaac’s mother. Played by a shrill Karen Kalensky, she sits in the audience and heckles her “son” onstage. Presumably an archetype of the whining Jewish mother, she is unfunny, disruptive, and terminally annoying. And her invasive and abusive interruptions do nothing to endear her to the audience.
This run, produced by the West Coast Jewish Theatre, is the Los Angeles premiere. It will continue Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. through Nov. 27 at the Pico Playhouse, 10508 West Pico Blvd., in Los Angeles. Call (323) 860-6620 or visit www.westcoastjewishtheatre.org for tickets.
Cynthia Citron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.