At a time when Jewish hucksters are dominating financial news (see: Madoff, Bernie; Nadel, Arthur), it might seem an odd moment for a play that, according to The New York Times, amounts to a 75-minute apologia for Jewish crime boss Meyer Lansky. Or is it?
Lansky, who along with comrades Bugsy Siegel and Lucky Luciano, built a small bootlegging operation into a sprawling gambling empire. But in Joseph Bologna’s new play, he’s just a simple Jewish kid chasing the American dream.
When the audience at St. Luke’s Theater first meets Meyer Lansky in Richard Krevolin and Joseph Bologna’s play about that gangster, he is in a restaurant in Tel Aviv expecting to celebrate being granted Israeli citizenship and ruminating on his life. To hear Lansky tell it, he is just a retired businessman who had a head for numbers and who almost single-handedly broke up the American Nazi Party, defeated Hitler and won independence for Israel.
For a more considered treatment of Madoff-Lansky parallels, check out this piece by Ron Rosenbaum in Slate.