The English version of the Yiddish play “Yoshe Kalb”, which had its premier Thursday night at the large National Theatre under the banner of the aged Daniel Frohman, made it possible for all the people who can’t understand a word of Yiddish to remark airily that in the version by Fritz Blocki and Maurice Schwartz, the ethereal and mystical beauty of the Yiddish has been lost. As a matter of fact it is still a moving, stirring and fine drama, well acted and competently staged. Perhaps the Gentiles will not be moved by the now completely understandable story of the lusty rabbi, but to Jews it should satisfy a nostalgia for things Jewish.
The story of “Yoshe Kalb” is open to many interpretations. Outwardly it unfolds the strange but not strained situation in which the young wife, her Chassidic rabbi husband, and his too-absorbed son-in-law find themselves. The young wife burns down the rabbi’s synagogue and while it burns, seduces his son-in-law. After she dies in child-birth, the son-in-law wanders off to another town and becomes a symbol of woe upon whom all dire events are blamed.
Fritz Lieber as the sixty-eight-year-old rabbi, and, believe it or not, Erin O’Brien-Moore as the young wife, play their parts with gusto and spirit. Horace Braham is the young son-in-law. The large supporting cast, the music and ballets are all worthy. The entire production has been elaborately staged and the ceremonies, traditions and customs of the Jews which are interspersed in the two acts, add color and interest to a play that deserves your patronage. F. V. S.